Farmer, voyageur or craftsman?
What do I want to be when I grow up? For a young Canadian boy, career choices are limited.
The vast majority of boys will become farmers. If they are not given their parents’ land, they have to request a concession from a seigneur and clear the forest before they can start farming. They then have to plough, sow, reap, tend to the animals, and fix fences and buildings. Lots of work, little rest.
Boys can also become craftsmen. Blacksmith, shoemaker, carpenter, butcher… there are several trades to choose from. But first they have to work as an apprentice to a master for several years. They have to work for free while they learn the trade. The master has to feed, clothe and house the apprentice. At the age of 18, the young man can then open his own workshop or work for a master for a salary.
For those who prefer adventure, there is work as a voyageur in the fur trade. But they have to paddle every day, from morning to night. They also have to unload the canoe and portage when the river is not navigable. That means they have to carry all the merchandise and the canoe until the next navigable stream. This is hard and dangerous work, but it’s a way to make money before settling down on a piece of land.
For young Canadian girls, the choices are even more limited. The few girls who remain unmarried take can care of their parents during their old age or become nuns. Normally, girls will get married and most of their lives will be linked to that of their husbands.
Author: Léon Robichaud
See also – Traces of the past:
French (If available)