Buckskin Joe’s father was in the military. A captain, attached to the militia of Stanstead, a border village reached by horse in Vermont. At the time, the black market was progressing at a gallop. The border did not hinder many. Essentially, it only served to halt the republicans’ ideas, which came on foot through the Fenians, the Irish revolutionaries who were taken for dummies.
Edward Hoyt, aka Buckskin Joe, was born near Magog, in a cabin at the foot of Mount Orford. In those times, it seemed as normal to come across indigenous people there, as a Tim Hortons.*
This colonial world appreciated informal parties lit only by the fiddler’s and the jig dancers’ light. Confrontations between strong men and shooting matches represented the other aspect of such entertainment. Whisky, the good stuff and the bad, washed away the bitterness.
A military son, Buckskin Joe was always armed. Near the Magog River, he learned to walk and trap at the same time. It was nevertheless he who was caught in the trap of an America fueled by amnesia. Thus, he ended up in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians forgot themselves, as he did. During the American Civil War, Buckskin Joe enlisted in a Union regiment. Even Calixa Lavallée, the composer of the Canadian national anthem, enlisted on that side before finishing his days in Boston, in oblivion.
His life played out like that of a character trying to heat up his notoriety in a combustion of meaning. The indigenous people called him “white man demon.” Was this only because of his ability to defy death?
Passing with ease from the art of war to that of entertainment, Buckskin Joe went on to join numerous traveling circuses crossing North America. These circuses, very theatrical, showed a heavily made-up face of America, without actually worrying about showing the holes in its skin. The circus passed by, and with its illusions, it brought in more members. Buckskin Joe became one of its gears.
In the 1870s, he performed a caricature of a hunter: one who hunted bison, as well as Native Americans, filled with the pride of a colonialist mythology rid of its inhibitions. He was part of a fabricated story of the conquest of the West, in the wake of Buffalo Bill’s performances, among others. Like them, Buckskin Joe adopted a false cowboy appearance: a Stetson hat, a suede jacket with fringe, a lever-action rifle and supple boots. These fantasy costumes now cover the amnesia with which we cradle the conquest of a territory stripped bare.
In the time where the prairie bison were nearly decimated and the people living there were consequently halved, Buckskin Joe returned to Magog. He gathered his family there, and then left. Destination: Kansas. He built a house. Winter was tough. Supplies were lacking. Summer harvests were terrible.
To save his skin, the theatrical cowboy decided to put holes in that of others. In the name of new acrobatic fabrications, he stirred up a war against the Native Americans. The government, in exchange, gave him supplies because he was acting — even though dishonestly — for the moral triumph of this America where fake characters like himself could pretend to be real. And in his memoirs, Buckskin Joe had the nerve to present himself as a “friend of the Indians.”
A couple of years later, when he stopped once more in Magog, it was to quickly move on. This time he went all the way to Nova Scotia. He left to search for gold. He could have found it somewhere closer. There would be rushes for this yellow metal at the Mining Brook, near Chartierville, or in Beauce, near Saint-Simon-les-Mines.
With head held high, each era consumed its illusions and absolved itself, in doing so, of those who engendered it. We are advancing in the present time, without seeing that which unites us with those who precede us. Why do the commotions of the past remain partly inaudible to the experience of our present?
Take the new cowboys that trap along the Magog River, in the name of bitcoin gold, in the age of the speculation economy. These new trappers are seeking the wealth of their illusions and new ways to skin their prey. They installed cryptocurrency “farms” that emit a constant hum. Enough to drive you crazy, according to nearby residents.
In America, everyone invents themselves as they wish in order to become rich, no matter the cost to others, in the name of the sovereignty of their mythomania. Nothing more natural then, than seeing that we have even ended up inventing imaginary money, which is currently destroying the world.
To better justify the gargantuan consumption of our electricity to reach these ends, the “bitfarms” are attempting to boost their actions with a line of made-up pretenses of the softest green. But the fact remains that these new cowboys do what they want, just like their predecessors. They impose their laws, their visions on the world, this time in a new financial Far West.
Will gold end up destroying us?
Let us kneel down and pray, said Blaise Pascal: You will start to believe. And apparently, we are not done believing in the Far West.
*Editor’s note: Tim Hortons Inc. is a Canadian-based fast-food restaurant chain.