There is now frost on my windshield in the morning and a white crispy blanket over all the fallen leaves and plants. There hasn’t been snow yet, but I know it’s on the way because this week the chipmunks and squirrels were really amping up their food-gathering operations. I know the coming of winter to mean it’s time to inventory mittens to make sure all have partners, finding the windshield scraper somewhere and getting excited about the Christmas-themed catalogues that come in the mail. In Ross River, all those kinds of thoughts are delayed as people become frenetic about moose.
The colder it gets, the smaller the window to hunt moose becomes. And if you haven’t caught a moose yet, now is time to start “getting serious” about hunting. Serious can mean daily treks out to the bush to wait and make the calls of the female moose. It can mean taking off work to go on days-long hunting trips. The pressure is on to score a big, fat bull moose before the snow hits so that your freezer will be stocked up for winter. The teachers at school who are as yet moose-less were just antsy yesterday to get out the door and hunt this weekend, practicing their cow calls in the hall to each other and teaching lessons while their minds were in the bush.
I enjoy moose meat. It is really high in iron, which explains my early pregnancy cravings for it. It sounds hokey, but it’s also “organic” and not food from pen-living, trench-fed mass meat operations, which is a plus. We don’t need the meat in our freezer, plus we’re still kind of green up here as we’ve only had one Yukon winter under our belts, so we aren’t as “into” the moose frenzy. I am not sure I’m ready to go on a moose hunt yet. I much prefer the fruits of the labour, but who doesn’t? My husband thought he’d go along on a moose hunt one evening after dinner last week just to see what it’s all about. He planned to drive about 15 minutes out of town with a local teacher here and hike in about a kilometer to a “special spot,” to wait and make cow calls. (Nobody here tells where their moose spots are. They are scared secrets)
Within 10 minutes of waiting and settling in, they spotted a big bull, shot it and had their moose kill for the winter. A nice big one with lots of meat. The teacher will subsist largely off of this meat over the winter. I told him we don’t need the meat but he insisted, as an offer of appreciation for my husband’s help and extreme good luck in bagging a moose so quickly.
Everyone at school was congratulating me on the feat of my “good luck charm” husband, asking if they could bring him along on their hunts. The early success in his first ever moose hunt is a very good omen. Indeed, if one goes for numerous first moose hunts and doesn’t bag a thing, it is a sign of a hunter with very bad. So cheer to my good luck hunter of a husband, and to the poor bull who will soon sit, in pieces, in our deep freezer.
Labels: Ross River
Yukon Show and Tell
This week, the kids in one of the younger classes were asked to bring in pictures and items from home that describe them. A standard “get to know you” activity in most primary ed classes, no? But in the Yukon, the show and tell plays out a little different from down South…
Little Kyle (not real name) stands up and holds out his slingshot.
“I got this from Santa for Christmas. It’s my slingshot.”
Ooohs and Ahhs.
“I use it to shoot grouse with my grandpa.”
He then needs a little prodding from the teacher to expand.
“Well, one time I shot a moose in the eye with my slingshot and then the eye exploded.”
The class erupted in fascinated large eyes and smiles.
“And one time I shot a porcupine and the quills stuck out and I was happy. The end.”
This wouldn’t phase anyone up here, except that they would maybe remark that this little boy’s family is doing a great job teaching him to hunt and live off the land. But can you imagine such an exchange in an Ottawa elementary school?
The Elastowaist Wonders
I have recently discovered the most divine and, might I add, well-kept secret of pregnancy: Maternity jeans. They are a godsend, and I can foresee they will be the most difficult thing for me to let go of once this 9-month journey is over.
They were purchased for me by my mother as I laughed at how outrageous they looked. I imagined that when I put them on, I’d look like one of those hugely big-butted people at Wal-Mart, you know where like the butt pockets are so far apart you wonder, “Why?” Maternity jeans looked to me like they would be the first step towards an eventual progression to the dreaded mom jeans. Ugh.
Most of my jeans sit low anyway, so I figured the maternity jeans would be reserved until I was categorically huge and blimp-like. Sure, my belt buckle would dig in a little when I sat down, but I can deal with that.
Yesterday was my first day back working at the school and by the end of the day I was so uncomfortable. I kept tugging down my T-shirt all day as it rode up my protruding belly, meanwhile trying to tug it down in the back and avoid plumber’s butt exposure whenever I sat or bent over. It was a whole day of re-adjusting. I swear if those “what not to wear” cameras were following me, they would have had a lot of ammo for supporting the theory that my regular clothing no longer fits.
So I reluctantly went over to the closet in the future nursery where I am keeping all my maternity clothes. Out of sight. I slipped on the Motherhood Maternity Secret Belly pants and oh……lordy. It was amazing. The elastowaist wonders had me hooked. I wore them to work today and though the elastic part creeped out under my rising T-shirt a few times, I felt so much better. And really, that’s the T-shirt’s fault. My belly could actually fill when I inhaled and yet my butt still looked fabulous! Not Wal-Mart huge at all!
I think I am going to live in these pants. Everybody should have a pair for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners. They would give so much of what I need when stuffing myself full of more stuffing. Mmm, stuffing.
Meanwhile, I am not sure I have enough of those empire waist shirts to last before I have to make the leap to the designated maternity shirts…
In Ottawa, berry picking means driving for like 20 minutes to some farm where you get on a hay bale wagon and ride to a designated row where you pick strawberries, raspberries, whatever, filling up your cardboard boxes. Then, you ride back to the farm and pay for them. You bring them home to jam or bake or just eat and feel a little bit accomplished for providing for yourself or family, for being a gatherer, for eating local, like all the magazines tell you to.
In Ross River, berry picking means learning of a secret, sacred berry patch from someone who’s lived here longer than you. You drive out and hike in to its remote location and pick raspberries, strawberries or cranberries until you just can’t pick any longer. There is abundance; you’ll never run out of berries to pick. That is, unless you spill the beans, or berries, and betray the secret of your berry patch to too many people and then they come and pick too many and then you have to scour the hillsides for a new spot.
I was taken to a raspberry patch a few weeks ago and filled my bucket with raspberries smaller than I was used to. But man, were they delicious! And obviously organic and stuff since the pesticide sprayers don’t tend to make it to the North Canol Highway region. The raspberries made for delicious pancakes, smoothies and juices. Mmm. I miss them already.
Yesterday, a friend entrusted me to accompany her on a cranberry picking adventure. They are just ripening, she told me, and will continue to as long as there’s no snow! (A justified fear in a place where snow can fall as early as mid-September!) I squatted and sifted through moss and lichens, coming up for air and granola bars once in awhile. I came back with a mother load of little red berries. I don’t even know what I’ll do with them! Last night, some turned into a cranberry-rhubarb crisp. Maybe today some scones? I’ll freeze some for Thanksgiving and Christmas too.
Either way, this is what us gatherers gathered while the hunters in the area seem to be having a rough go of moose hunting this season. Everyone says the cows and young ones are being spotted everywhere, but you aren’t allowed to shoot those. Only one guy around here claimed to have shot three caribou, but I only believe about half of what he says. So good luck to the local hunters, and courage to the wives and children they are leaving behind for three or four days at a time, only to come home empty-handed. Courage, ladies!
The dog days of summer
A resounding chorus of swelling shrieks, that, from a distance, sounds like a group of terrified screams. This is the soundtrack and most frequent audible backdrop to Ross River. This town is not known for many things: There’s no mayor, no landmarks, and the town sign has a dilapidated old car ridden with bullet holes at the entrance. But many people remember Ross River as “the place with the dogs.”
There aren’t any bylaws, so far as I know, limiting the number of dogs a person can own, as in most municipalities. There are indeed some residents who house nine and ten dogs, all in a dog yard behind their homes. At one point, I was living in a house flanked by nine dogs on our left and another ten right across the street. Not fun. And when one dog goes off barking at something – real or imaginary- they ALL get going in the chorus.
Aside from the dozens of dogs chained up in dog yards, Ross River is known for its pack of wild dogs. Dogs that start out as puppies, that are cute and therefore attractive as fun pets. But then people sort of forget to take care of them, letting them roam free and fend for themselves with the other rejected and neglected canines. It literally becomes a dog eat dog world. They congregate outside the restaurant, waiting for scraps. They wait outside of the school for their “owners” to collect them at the end of the day. They roam the main drag of highway, with increasing aggression the hungrier they become. I’ve been warned not to bother going for jogs in town because the wild packs of dogs would be apt to nip at my legs, if not attempt to gnaw the flesh from my bones!
Lately, there have been a pack of dogs in our neighbour’s yard howling between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and about 4:00 a.m. Not the kind of night music one might request to be lulled to sleep with.
Yesterday on the way back from walking our puppy in the woods, one of the residents stopped driving his John Deere lawnmower down the road and expressed frustration at the nocturnal barks. In fact, his words were,
“I can’t take it anymore. The next time I hear it, I’m going to go running out of my house with either a shotgun or a bat and I’ll gladly beat the dog to death.”
Hmm. I’ll chalk it up to another day in Ross.