It was 1618, still early in establishment of the missions in New France, and Father Joseph le Caron the Franciscans superior was anxious to work among the mission fields.  As the superior of the missions in Canada, le Caron had been relegated to a mostly sedentary position in Quebec which did not match the "...burning with the desire of devoting his toil to the conversion of the Indians..." within him.  At that time, father John d'Olbeau who had been serving among the Huron was in Quebec and le Caron urged his brother to replace him as superior.  Father d'Olbeau consented to the request, "the more as he was given to understand that his eyesight would not stand the great smoke of the cabins," and Joseph le Caron sailed for Tadoussac on the 9th of November that year. 

Having exposed my eyes to large quantities of smoke over the years, I truly thought I understood the significance of the statement regarding d'Olbeau's eyes.  That was, until I finally arrived in Michigan.  It was August 25 when I picked up my apartment keys and unloaded my car after the 1,000 mile drive from Florida to Eastern Michigan university.  On August 27, I found myself in North Detroit at MetroBeach metropark for their annual voyageur encampment...an ideal opportunity to debut my Recollect impression, especially as some cyber-friends of mine were going to be present.  I have no idea what type of wood was being burned, but I know it was gathered locally here in the woods of Michigan, but my eyes sure took a beating during the event!  Woodsmoke back in Florida tends to have a more dull burning sensation which is more irritating than anything, but up here in New France the smoke would shift directions into your face and you new it instantly as a very sharp burn prevents you from re-opening your eyes for a few moments.  And once you have them opened again, they are red, watery, and I found myself having to rub them to get them to return to some sense of normalcy.  The other interpreters I was with had minimal problem with the woodsmoke, as many had grown up in and around Michigan...but I had come from a long distance away where we did not have some of those tree types to even burn, and my eyes definitely were not conditioned for the experience.  People often ask why I bother doing living history programs (or just think I am crazy and do not bother asking), and this experience right here is one of the big reasons I persist with participating.  As unpleasant as it was to have my eyes burning like crazy, and even the next day still having vision issues from the constant rubbing and watering the night before, this experience helped me truly understand the full implications of that one brief statement in Le Clercq's First Establishment of the Faith in New France.  Father d'Olbeau had come from thousands of miles away, a region where they did not burn the same trees that the Hurons in Canada did, and just entered the wilderness of Huronia without any idea of the impact the woodsmoke might have on his eyesight.  My experience at Metro Beach immediately after traveling to New France gave me a taste of this experience, though fortunately my fire was in the open while Father d'Olbeau suffered for months with sitting inside bark huts which contained much of the smoke.  Regardless, it is amazing how such a brief relatively insignificant statement in the primary sources of history can take on such a greater meaning and understanding just through a bit of experience. 
 





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