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MICHIGAN CHAPTER 15

The Old French Habitants and their Ways

The challenged and the challenger brought out their ponies and scored for a start, while the crowd sized up the animals and the betting was furious. There was no starter, no jockey, no book-maker, no drawing for the pole. Each driver handled the reins over his own animal. He maneuvered for position and took his chances with his adversary. And when at last the ponies were off for the mile stretch down the river, the excitement among the multitude on the bank was something tremendous. If ever violence was done to the French language, it was upon such occasions, when individual opinions were struggling for utterance from hundreds of throats. Large sums of money changed hands, considering the financial resources of the town. The descendants of these same Frenchmen up to recent years, at least, still raced their ponies on the frozen surface of the Rouge. The sport drew a bigger and rougher crowd than in the early day. The rough element which imbibes freely and proves itself a noisome nuisance was made up wholly of Americans. Johnny Couteau is naturally of a somewhat excitable nature, but he still behaves himself and relishes the sport for the excitement and uncertainty there is in it. His language now is a mixture of French and English, which adds flavor to the other ludicrous features of the affair.
The characteristic French fondness for dress is noted by several writers of the time. The farmers must have been prosperous to be able to dress their wives and daughters in silks and satins. They undoubtedly raised large crops of wheat and Indian corn, which sold to the garrison and English residents at good prices. The money they thus received they spent freely with the merchants. It is said the stores contained finery of all sorts and descriptions which sold for little more than the same articles were quoted at in New York.

MICHIGAN


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