Mike Money wasn’t enjoying this at all. It was one of a few recurring tasks that he, as the “town cop,” couldn’t ignore. There was too much of an opportunity for trouble to arise.
Why these young pilots couldn’t manage to keep it in their pants, when they had been warned, he never understood. Yes, many of the young First Nations women were stunning, and they were almost always willing partners, something the white boys were completely unprepared for. Which is why they were warned. Sleep with a local girl and you faced a BCR, a Band Council Ruling, ordering you off the reservation.
The owners of the airlines (Big Trout Air and Bearskin Air) had no choice but to fire any employee who received a BCR and ship them south. If they didn’t they would find themselves unwelcome on the rez.
And the girls? Well for the most part it was boredom that had led to the formation of the game. It was a simple one—seduce a pilot and then let the chips fall where they may. The council was always there, just in case.
It was too much for some girls to resist. They were often as curious about the white boys as the boys were about them. And there probably wasn’t a girl on the reserve who really expected a BCR. After all, that would mean all sorts of trouble for them, parents being parents. But it did happen. Yes, it did.
Mike knocked on the door of the pilot’s shack. He soon heard someone shuffling toward the door.
It opened on a blond-haired, good looking kid. It was hard to believe this was a pilot with hundreds of hours under his belt. Bush piloting was definitely a young man’s game.
“Morning, John,” the policeman said.
The kid nodded his head and looked confused.
“Can I come in, John?” Mike queried.
“Yah, lemme get a shirt on,” he said, heading for one of the 3 bedrooms that opened onto the main room—living room and kitchen as one. It was a beautiful building, really, an all log construction that was meant to create a sense of home for the young men who flew all over this part of the country, from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Thunder Bay, Ontario and as far up as Moosonee, Ontario, on James Bay. Mike had once flown a twin engine Seneca to Winnipeg, with a friend. There was nothing but bush and water all the way there.
“What is it, Mike?”
Mike turned his attention back to the friendly man who now stood fully clothed in the middle of the great room.
“I’ve got some shitty news, John, and I don’t know how to deal with it except straight up.” He walked over to John and put his hand on the pilot’s shoulder. “You’ve been BCRed, John.”
“What the fuck?”
“I know it’s a bad deal. But you know as well as I do that it’s a risk anyone sleeping with the girls must face. Whatever’s going on between you and Josie is done.”
“I get to talk with her?”
“No. this thing is all done for but the crying. In fact, there’s a plane headed for Sioux Lookout in about 15. That’s how much time you have to pack, then I’ve got to escort you up to the runway.”
“This isn’t fair Mike.”
“I never said it was, son. It’s political mostly, with some racism thrown in.”
“Don’t suppose the fact that I love her makes any difference?”
“No, it might even make things worse. You’ve got to clear things with the elders when relationships get serious. It’s not so different from the way things are down south, except for the fact that the southern parents have no real power of influence in a bad situation and the band council does.”
The young man stopped asking questions and began packing. You could tell he had some guts, considering how busted up inside he must be.
* * *
Next on Mike’s list was another contentious duty: the dog shoot. The guys were heading back from the air strip when he put John on the Beech King Air.
Dogs on the rez ran free. Some were mutts that had been starved at home or had been abused. Whatever the reason, they were homeless and slowly reverted to a feral state—which pissed Mike off to no end. Once they reached such a state the dogs were ruined and had to be shot. He found the process barbaric, as it was not the dogs’ fault. They had once been loving creatures with an emotional age of a 5 year-old child. No one would ever put a child on the street, would they?
But now… The wild dogs would think nothing of cornering and pulling down a child. This reserve had been lucky in recent years and only had a few maimings on its record. Not like other places where there had been deaths. Hell, he remembered the day when the crazy French man who lived in the village had flown over to Osnaburgh for some reason or another. Mike was on the same flight. And when it came time to go—no French man. Mike had to go looking for him. The guy had gotten himself cornered by a pack of about 10 dogs with a ringleader that was this small poodle-type mutt. Its constant yapping had built up animosity in the other dogs until they began to close in. The only thing that had saved the French man was his walking stick. With the man swinging the stick like a wild man Mike booted a number of the dogs, catching them by surprise and breaking up the ring. He was able to rescue the French man, but the dogs—unafraid—sat off a ways and just watched, sullen and hungry.
This time, Big Trout Lake had a pack just like Osnaburgh’s, and the band was going to do what they always did. Two shooters would stand up in the back of a truck, rifles steadied on the roof of the cab while another fellow drove around looking for the pack. Sometimes, there would be someone in the front passenger seat with a loaded weapon and two extra shooters sitting in the back of the truck on low chairs. Mike’s job, even though he understood the necessity, was to stop them. He couldn’t condone the use of firearms within the limits of their little village. The shoot had been advertised heavily, so everyone would stay indoors for the next few hours. But that just didn’t cut it. One stray bullet and someone could end up dead.
But stopping the hunt wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Everyone carried firearms in their trucks. Usually on homemade window racks. Others just threw them in the back of their vehicle or along the runner of their snow machine or under a heavy fur on a dog sled.
“Hey, Ben,” Mike said to the tall fellow in the back of the truck.
The first nations man gave a nod that was almost imperceptible. It was the white man’s way to say hello and goodbye, not those of the first nations.
“You seen the dogs?
“They were over on the mainland early this morning,” Mike said.
“They got Mary Land’s dog last night. Killed it bad.”
Mike shook his head.
“You guys the hunting party?”
No answer, and no guns in site. They might be a decoy. Hard to tell, as he hadn’t heard any gunshots yet.
They banged on the roof of the truck, hollered directions at the driver and drove off.
It was about an hour later that Mike found the men at the garbage dump. He had been on the mainland when he heard the shooting. There were about 15 carcasses and no guns in site. Not even in the window rack. Mike sighed in relief. Out here there was no way anyone could get hurt by accident. He nodded to Calvin Skead, took a deep breath and walked away. The landfill was set up in such a way that the pack had been pushed up against a hill of garbage. There was nowhere for them to go. And even though the shooting had seemed to go on forever, the job must have been done in mere minutes.
Mike was so upset he didn’t even comment when the driver put the truck in reverse and drove away. What was a dump for anyway?
* * *
Mike went home for lunch. Marion had a rich and creamy potato soup on the stove. She met him at the door with a big hug. These shoots always left Mike in a terrible state. They talked about it after Mike had finished up the deeply warming soup.
“How many this time?”
“Are you okay?”
“Not really. I didn’t catch them in the act.”
He sat silently for a few moments.
“If the people would just think before getting an animal. Most of the families barely squeak by. It doesn’t take very long before they realize how expensive a pet can be, just in food costs alone. Then they just boot the dogs out, leaving them to fend for themselves. It’s no wonder they pack. Think of a bunch of 5 year-old kids thrown out on the street. How long would it take them to go feral? Either that or die.”
Mike shook his head in disgust.
“There are times I really hate this job”
“Can’t the dogs be reintegrated into the community?”
“Not once they’ve gone wild. You could never really trust them again, and they wouldn’t really trust you. Sooner or later someone or a dog would be hurt. And we both know what the solution to that is. No, these guys did the right thing, even though the law doesn’t agree.”
Marion changed the subject.
“How did the eviction go?”
“Eviction? Oh, the pilot. He was a nice kid. Deer in the headlights though. He didn’t know what hit him. It probably didn’t begin to sink in until they were in the air and headed down to Sioux Lookout.”
“Girls will be girls, hmm?”
“Something like that. Can’t say he wasn’t warned.”
Mike rubbed his face with his hands.
“What people don’t understand is that they’re submerged in another culture. They would take great care not to offend if they went to Japan or just about anyplace foreign. It’s like this in Quebec too. A whole different culture most of us know nothing about.”
Marion got up and massaged his shoulders.
“Strangers in a Strange Land?”
“That’s about it, honey.”
She kissed him softly and deeply.
“What was that for?”
“Something to look forward to at the end of the day.”
Mike smiled and said, “I love you a lot, honey.”
With that, he got up, put on his Jacket and stepped out into the bright sun. It was a beautiful spring day, with the snow sparkling like diamonds and the air so clean and cold it almost hurt to breath. He thought for a moment and made the decision to go ice fishing later in the day. For some reason this end of the lake made for poor ice sport, but it would be a nice way to relax.
However, he had one more unpleasant job to do. But it was necessary, to say the least. One of the elders wanted to talk to him about his grandson. He was pretty sure he was sniffing, and he thought Mike might talk to the boy. They both wanted to find out who had the supply of glue that had recently appeared on the reserve. Maybe he could get the boy thinking straight and maybe he would talk. One never knew.
Another problem of heartbreaking proportions.
Mike, drove silently, thinking hard about his decision to become the first stationed policeman at Big Trout Lake. It used to be the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) had a regular rotation of visits and were always on call in Sioux Lookout, some 250 miles south. Now, here he was, an OPP officer by training, but a band cop in principal. After all, they funded his paycheck.
Things were strange here. Mike was native. Ojibway, mostly. But this was a Cree reservation. He was almost as much an outsider as the whites who lived and worked on the rez. The young people were highly suspicious of him, the elders tolerated him (It was their decision that had led to this pilot program) and the old ladies loved to poke fun at him. Their last joke was to send him a plate full of Elk strips. They had been delicious when fried like bacon, but Mike knew darn well he would never want to know how the meat was cured. He still shuddered at the thought of the moose meat Old man Beardy had offered him. The gutted moose was lying, hide on and all, in the middle of the warm kitchen. It appeared to have been there for some time, the old man just lifted a flap of hide—showing that about a third of the moose was gone—and sliced off a nice sized roast. Mike knew he couldn’t refuse the meat.
He never remembered such behaviour when he was growing up. A moose was hung in a cool room for 3-5 days, depending on how warm the weather was, then it was butchered. And the meat was damned fine. As good as the Beardy roast he had forced himself to eat. The dogs? He had seen plenty of dogs kicked in the ribs, but he had never heard of one being abandoned. The girls? If they wanted a white man, they had to move off the reserve. Mike supposed it was a form of BCR, but at least the couples were allowed to stay together.
No, Big Trout Lake was different. About the only thing he approved of was that it was a dry reserve. Natives just can’t hold their liquor. There must be some sort of missing gene, because it was a fact that held true throughout all the Indian Nations. And it wasn’t any different with glue or paint or gasoline. These things were easy highs for those willing to risk the substances, and they were most definitely habit forming.
Mike stopped in front of the Elder’s home. The boy, Martin Redsky, was at home and waiting for him. Mike accepted tea and passed some time talking with the senior Redsky. The man was in his 70’s but he looked a lot older. The rawness of a life lived in the outdoors had taken its toll on his skin. Eventually they came to the problem at hand.
“How long have you been sniffing, Martin?”
“Didn’t say I have.”
“Your grandfather seems to think it’s true.”
“He’s old. His mind runs off with him.”
“Maybe, but I notice you’ve got a bad case of the slurs.”
“I can get you into a program that will help you get sober.”
“Don’t want to.”
“Do you respect your grandfather?”
“When his mind is working right.”
“Then don’t you think you owe it to him to try and kick this thing.”
“Ain’t got a thing.”
“Do you mind if I check your room.”
“You gotta have a warrant Five-oh.”
“Not if you say it’s okay.”
“Not gonna do it.”
Mike looked at the elder and shrugged. “I can’t help if he doesn’t want help.”
The old man nodded and swung his palm low and flat.
They were done here.
Mike left without saying goodbye. He was that much of a native, anyway. Then he thought of his wife, waiting for him at home and he decided fishing could wait. There was nothing better than a little lovin’ to cure the Big Trout Lake Blues.
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye