The Adventures of Brute Noir: A Tall Tale

by W.M. Butler

From the beer parlours and speakeasies of Saskatoon to the opium dens and chop suey joints of old Shanghai, it was whispered that Brute Noir had been born to a Parisian whore. She had been sold to fur trappers in the wilds of Quebec for two wolf pelts and a rabbit skin cap. People said she escaped and traveled on foot across the great expanse of the Canadian wilderness to the base of the Rocky mountains.  Half starved and ragged from her journey, she knew she would never make it up the cold jagged passes of the mountains on her own. It is said that she was found at crossroads by a man whose past was as misty as the great cloud capped peaks of the Rockies themselves. The tales say that she bedded him for his assistance up into the Crow’s Nest Pass. The stranger led the way and once they had reached the pass the man disappeared and left her heavy with child.

Brute was born high up in the stone cold crags of those mountains in the dead of winter during the biggest snowstorm of the century. When the squalling babe was finally birthed near the banks of a vast frozen lake. Rumour was that he came out with hair curly and wild like his mothers but not of the same colouring. Hers was hair of spun gold but due to the extreme cold the babe had hair as blue black as a raven’s wing. When the light caught it just so, it shone a true indigo. Brute’s eyes were the colour of the icy lake he was born beside all stone cold grey shot through with icy veins of the bluest blue. Some even say if you look deep into the eyes of Brute Noir you can see the clouds dragging their bellies across the surface of that lake. Still other’s say if you look deeper still, you can see into the depths of that lake and down into the roots of the mountains of the rocky range.

Brute was a big lad even at birth, weighing as much as a newborn moose calf. By the time he came of age at fifteen he stood seven feet tall, was as wide as two Spanish fighting bulls and just as noble. At the budding of his manhood Brute had sprouted a great grizzled beard that matched his storm cloud mop of hair. The beard was so thick and long that it hung below his waist and was so strong that it could only be cut with a blade made from diamonds. The mountain men would come from far and wide to buy trimmings of Brute’s beard to make unbreakable rope with so that they could traverse the deadly steep crags and valleys of the Rockies.

Brute Noir’s Strength would soon be renowned across the provinces for it came to pass that he wrestled with Ol’ Stormin’ Norman. The great black bear and scourge of the Okanogan Valley. For thirty days and thirty nights the mighty foes fought until Brute twisted one of the massive bear’s paws behind its lumbering hillock of a back and made him yield. Thus ending Stormin’ Norman’s reign of fear throughout the territories. Brute was all set to kill the beast when Norm shed a single tear, which froze in the frosty morn air and shattered on the rocky ground. Brute spared the bear’s life with the understanding that that Norm would be his constant companion and friend. The bear heartily agreed  and not wishing to die pledged his service and friendship to Brute for all time. Norman even offered up his fur to be shaved so that Brute could make a great coat to wear. Soon man and bear (though now it was hard to tell them apart) became fast bosom friends and where never seen apart. Brute and his bear eventually left the Crow’s Nest Pass and his own dear sweet Ma to travel the land in search of adventure.

Brute and Norm traveled far and wide and after many adventures and finally settled out east towards the great stretching prairies of Manitoba. It was there that they took employment as railroad hands. It just so happened one night during their free time that Brute Noir and his companions Tiny King, Jim Dangerous and Stormin’ Norman sat against the brick wall of an abandoned church staring out into the inky darkness. Drinking moonshine and braggin’, when Tiny King mentioned how it sure would be great if they had more light; for the night was long and dark and the moon was only a little sliver of a thing. Brute said that he could make the moon turn full and shine her light on them. His friends just laughed, thinking that Brute had gone too far with his tall tales. Brute was not a man to brag nor boast, he was a man for doing.  Brute told them the tale of the time the moon was weeping for she missed her lover the sun. Brute took pity on the moon and told her to wipe her tears and that he would help her see her love again. Brute then told them how he had waited until the moon was about to set and the sun to rise and how he tore the top off a mountain’s peak. A peak that just so happened to be blocking the moon’s view of her darling sun. So it was that the moon met her lover for but a brief sweet moment. The moon was so happy with Brute and his kindness that she promised him whenever he needed light in the darkness she would shine for him. All Brute need do was ask. Jim Dangerous guffawed. Tiny King rolled around in the grass and Stormin’ Norman slapped a mighty paw on his knee, laughing a deep rumbling laugh from his belly. Brute, hurt that his friends didn’t believe him stood up and stepped forward, raised his arms high and proclaimed in a loud booming voice;

Let there be light!

And there was. Brute Noir dropped his arms and placed them akimbo. A torrent of churning light from the moon illuminated the black, reaching out across the field to the tracks. Behind him his companions marvelled in awe that even the moon could be commanded by the thunderous voice of Brute Noir. It was then that they heard the mournful call of not one but two train whistles.

Egad! Said Tiny King.

Them trains err headin’ right t’ward thar other on tha same track!

It’ll be a Catat-catat- catastro- big trouble! Squealed Jim Dangerous.

Grrrroowwww! Grumbled Stormin’ Norman.

Brute sprang into action bounding forward as if he had turned into a stag with a wolf’s heart. Jim Dangerous swears to this day that he did in fact transform into such a beast and maybe it’s so. There are more mysteries in heaven and earth than dreamed of it is said. Who can really say? As Brute Noir sped into the  moon bathed wilderness he rumbled over the grass trampling the earth and leaving tracks of liquid fire behind him! So fast did he move that the grass ignited under the blurring of his feet his companions followed. Calling for him to come back, Brute could not hear them. It was then when the howling of the trains’ whistles so close together now pieced Brute’s ears with a jagged steel ring. The trains were closing in on each other and fast! Brute’s heart pounded, beating until it hummed. Then something amazing happened, Brute Noir took flight. His toes tickled the tips of the grass swaying beneath him. He was off and away moving faster than sound. A great pop could be heard from miles away. Brute was yelling now, calling to the trains as they sped towards each other. Far behind his friends called out fearfully for him to stop before he was crushed by the fury of the locomotives. Brute would not listen, would not heed them. He made it just in time just before the trains collided. Brute placed himself, planting his feet between the timber of the tracks!

The trains growled and screeched like harpies. The conductors yanked hard on the breaks but it was too late! The steel juggernauts lunged toward the each the other and Brute at a horrible velocity. Brute spread his arms wide, one hand for each train and braced for the inevitability of impact. As the trains collided with Brute’s mighty hands there could be heard a heaving groan of despair as Brute Noir made contact with not one but two immoveable objects and walked away the victor. The steam from the wreckage shredded itself on the broken laws of physics and fell to the ground like shards of shattered glass.

Luckily only one man was injured in the crash but sadly the man’s injuries were serious. The injured fellow happened to be a China man who worked for CP rail and was heading west to lay TNT to blow holes through the mountains of Brute’s home. It was Brute himself that pulled the man whose name was Ping Paw Pow from the twisted wreckage of the two felled metal monsters. Brute cradled the man in his arms and listened as Ping Paw Pow spoke.

I am… prince…in my land. The man whispered.

…Son…to the Emperor…I run…away from home…to find the mountain…of…gold. He coughed and sputtered.

Brave and…Strong…Brute…Noir…

Thank you for…to save…my…life!

Brute swaddled the little prince up in his own great coat and tended him through his recovery. When the Chinese prince was strong again he told Brute that he owed a life debt and that Brute would be repaid in riches beyond his wildest dreams. Brute would have a companion for life if only Brute and Stormin’ Norman would travel with him to the Orient to meet with Ping’s father. Brute Noir was not a man to shun riches nor adventure. But if truth be told he liked the little feller, liked his quick wit and sense of humour. It was out of friendship that Brute chose to travel with Ping Paw Pow. So it was that Brute set out with his black bear and the Emperor’s son to China where he would have many great adventures but alas my dear friends that is a tale for another time.