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"Alone" Chapter 11
Ever wonder like me just what happens to time. It seems to slip away so quickly and before you know it we have lost it all together. Time is a gift that is given to us and yet we manage it so poorly. What have we done with the time we have been given last week, yesterday or even today.
It is a precious gift and I do think there will be a day when we are called to account for our time and just what we have done with it. Maybe a good thing for us all to think about our time and make better use of it. I speak to myself here mainly as I have burned some time up the last few days that could have been more productive.
Welcome to the Fireside. Thank you for dropping in. Please pull up a chair sit and lets just visit for awhile and please do say hello. We have been getting some really great weather here lately. Perfect for this time of year. Rain and then sun and then another shower and more sun. Everything is starting to green up so nicely and here we are only at the end of April. It is shaping up to be a banner year for growth. Settle in and lets see where we end up today. We are fast approaching the end of this little book and I do hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have offering it to those who have followed. May you always find peace here at the Fireside... Hugs from Canada.
The stop in Whitehorse was brief and without incident. It was a short trip from the jet to the Beaver Aircraft. There was a spring bite to the air; we were home again. The warm sun from the south was gone and the north started to flow again in our veins. There was still much snow in the mountains and ice patches all over the tarmac.
Iskwiw was on a mission as she climbed into the Beaver. The plane was loaded with the supplies needed in Old Crow. The smell of aviation fuel was heavy in the cabin, with an assortment of parts and pieces, two hind quarters of moose meat and various boxes. All secured at the rear of the plane. The seats were canvas with simple frames, built for durability not comfort.
The pilot, Rob, welcomed us aboard, did a head count and informed us that it was snowing in Old Crow. When he noticed Iskwiw he said, “You are the poster girl of the North looking that way. I think we should get married. As captain of this plane I have the right to marry us and Rolly here can be the witness. What do you say girl?”
Iskwiw had enough English to understand. She blushed a little and motioned for him to go fly the plane by grasping an imaginary yoke of the aircraft. Rob just smiled, leaned over, gave her a kiss on the cheek and said, “You look lovely, Iskwiw.”
Se blushed and made an attempt to move this 250 pound man and his 6 foot 6 inch frame. He just smiled, took her hand and kissed it. "You know I love you dear. Of all the girls that fly with me I have always had an eye on you." Iskwiw gave up crossed her arms over her chest and tried to ignore him. "That is a sign of true love if I have ever seen it."
He was a typical bush pilot, all true northerner, a man people trusted with their lives. He knew the flight paths like the back of his hand and could be trusted to get you where you were going. As he went through his checklist prior to takeoff, he banged on a gauge with his fist and it snapped to life. “That’s something I’ll have to get fixed one of these days.”
We all smiled. That was our attitude in the Yukon: just keep going, fix when needed and take your chances. Over the years I had been on many of these flights and seen Rob do some amazing landings and takeoffs that no one else would attempt. He was one of the legends of the Yukon, and even had a story about delivering a baby one night while in the air. He put the plane on autopilot and flew in circles until he was finished. “It’s just one of the many services I offer,” he joked later in an article written in the local papers. The mother named her new son Rob and he was as proud as a father.
Rob came from a long line of family pilots. He had been a crop duster in the south, and his family had done the job for years. He used to hand mix the chemicals, wore no protective clothing and, at the age of 45, discovered he had a respiratory ailment. He found the cold of the north helped his breathing. To listen to him wheeze you would think he was at death’s door all the time.
Flying was in his blood and his blood was in the Yukon. By air Old Crow was a hop and a skip from Whitehorse in comparison to attempting the impossible to travel by land. Iskwiw was excited that she was going home and her anticipation was building. She fussed with her hair and clothes, laughing. “I have become white by dressing like this, but it makes me feel like a queen, all dressed up.”
I was so glad she was pleased.
Rob’s flight announcement was to buzz the town as low as possible. The landmarks Iskwiw pointed out flew past at death-defying rates. Gravity took over as the pilot banked to the west and began his approach. I could see quads and snowmobiles coming in all directions to meet the plane and get the supplies off. The greatest cargo Rob carried that day was Iskwiw, and there were many who came to meet her.
She was the “Belle of the ball” as she descended the steps of the plane. Her whole family greeted her and many commented on her new attire. Iskwiw was well aware that everyone knew about her health and the outcome of the testing, but she was alive at the moment.
I stood back and watched all the attention she was getting. One-by-one people from Old Crow came forward to give her a welcoming hug. Family stood back and quietly moved forward as their turn came. Each grandchild received the bags of peanuts Iskwiw had collected. They spoke in very fast Cree and I was able to understand little, but it was obvious they were all questioning the new dress and hairdo. The daughter she had called came forward last, her eyes filled with tears. She kissed her mom on the cheek and spoke the word for love in the Cree language as she sobbed. It was touching to see a community come together in support. Iskwiw introduced me as her new angel and shared with them briefly the way we had met.
The next few days were times of celebration even as the community went about its daily business. There were many things that still needed to be done. Spring was a time of renewal and preparation for the summer, a time for returning to the land to collect the much needed food supply the Yukon offered for free.
Old Crow is the most northerly community in the Yukon, some 450 miles north of Whitehorse and boasting a population of 250 or more. According to archaeological findings it may be the site of the earliest human occupation in North America, going back some 15,000 years. In 1950 it became a town because there was a school and a small store. Prior to that it was the gathering place for the hunting and trading that took place along the Porcupine River.
The primary source of food and income came from the Porcupine Caribou herds that traveled through in the spring and late fall. The people had lived that way for generations. The community had no road; it was only accessible by water or air. As a result outside influence was minimal.
The Cree are a wonderful people and have a heart for each other. Everything they do and say is done and spoken in simple terms, without attachments or expectations of the person giving or receiving. They are a gracious, straightforward people and it was such a blessing to watch from the outside the culture they had been raised in. Even the simplest gift of a button was received with great joy: a reserved joy, and yet the appreciation was shown with a smile of gratitude.
We white people could learn greatly from them. It was supposed to be a dry town, meaning no liquor is allowed, but for the past several years it had been hard to monitor. The young people were affected the worst, but there was a new awareness of the problem that had started to hold people accountable.
As the north expanded so did the demand on these people to gain access to their resources. Some band leaders over the years had made some very poor choices and the people were left to live in squaller while the band leaders lived in the lap of luxury. To the outsider like me it was so obvious and a blatant display of greed. Old Crow had been deemed a community that suffered under such rule years before and the expensive homes now sat in ruins as the leaders had been forced from the community.
Accountability and transparency had become the standard. Chief or community leader were considered to be no different and were now expected to work the same as anyone else. The simplicity of being one with the land was again the rule. As Iskwiw would say "No work- No eat." A simple but very effective way to look at things. No one would ever go hungry but they would have to have a good excuse to not be working. Over the years as I mentioned I had the privilege of hunting and fishing with these people and all around me I would watch the young and the old work to their capacity. We today go to the grocery store and spend our money to meet our needs. This was not an option for these people. All they had came from the land and it needed to be worked for and work they did. I learned a great deal from these people and gained a new appreciation for everything I took from the land. To them it was life and a gift from their Creator. For me it was a way of life I adapted too and still live by today.
Link to Chapter 10
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