I remember standing by the stove when I was a boy in Hall Lake. Nipāpā – my father, had made a big fire to get the house warm after we all spent a few days in La Ronge. I used to observe him and eventually learned to do what he did. Nimāmā, my mother, would be busy taking care of my baby brother to keep him warm, my sisters would be cuddled up to stay warm as the house was not quite warm enough.
At the top of the stove, I could see the heat radiating. Throwing heat upwards, slowly but surely it would heat up our home. nipāpā always made sure there was enough wood in the wood box. He would go out and haul wood from the thick forest across the lake from our small community. As I got older, he would buck all the wood in the bushes and have me go pick it up in his skidoo.
I used to love riding the snow machine. I would always anticipate him telling me to go get the wood. He would take me on the first trip, and I would ride at the back of the sled. I would twist and turn to go with the flow of the ride, as there were many bumps and twists on the ice and trail. He would point out all the places where there was wood, already bucked in stacks. He would take one last haul home and then it would be my turn.
The skidoo was a 350 and it had the insignia, “Ski-Doo,” on the side of the black hood. The windshield was unusually high, but it worked well when the weather was very cold and windy. The stacks of wood were easy to find but getting to the right landing across the lake would be confusing. There were several that looked very familiar, but I ended up going to the right one.
The work was great, it was exhilarating to be working out in the cold and I would feel the adrenaline as I worked fast and hard. I would almost feel lightheaded as I drove the skidoo back because I would be just sitting there after working furiously. I do not know why I went so hard when I was packing the sled with wood. If I could do it now, I would take it easy and take in the nature around me with squirrels and birds curiously looking at me. I wonder if they thought I would leave some scraps for them to eat after I left.
Once on the open lake, I would go full throttle, absorbing all the snowdrifts and the occasional soft snow where I would be surfing over the surface. I would wonder if there was slush under the beautiful blanket of snow, so I would try to avoid areas where I suspected there might be slush. I had gotten stuck in the slush before during several of my many joys rides around the rez. It really sucks. Wet socks, soaking boots, ugh, I would not wish that on my worst enemy.
Many times, I would be allowed to use the skidoo and cruise around the community. I would go pick up my friends and we would have an awesome time going through the many back trails. Sometimes I would pull a bunch of kids on the sled just for fun. If they heard me coming down the road or lake, they would be waiting for me to pick them up and drive them around. Occasionally, I would allow them to hitch their sleds onto the main sled and we would make a sled train. Great times, I cannot imagine wanting to do that today, I would probably be way too worried about safety and what their parents would say if a child got hurt.
This snowy day and chilly temps got me thinking about those days. I was so young at the time. I am not old but I do not live in Hall Lake anymore. I did for a while last year, but I did not even consider buying a skidoo for myself. I am not sure when I will live there again, but if I do, maybe I will buy a brand-new skidoo, one with a high windshield.
nipāpā – my father
nimāmā – my mother