Everyone was talking about them, the walkers for diabetes awareness. It was exciting to know that people could still walk the way our ancestors did, with dogs and sleds. As they appeared out of the trail from across the river, I marveled at the speed they crossed the last stretch of ice. I waited near the top of the riverbank and again I was amazed at the pace they kept up, even going up the steep and slippery embankment. To my further amazement, they greeted me with familiar voices underneath the dark skin, fuzzy faces and ice burns. “Hi Sonny!” they said. One even exclaimed, “What are you doing here?” I had to know to whom I was talking, so I went to the cultural camp to catch a further glimpse of them.
Later on, I discovered that it was my old school chum, Freddie Jolly from Nemaska, who had braved incredible distance and weather to bring awareness to the Cree people of the epidemic proportion of diabetes amongst our people. I congratulate them and encourage others to partake in this war against the sweet disease that has brought many of our people to realize that sugar can be deadly and debilitating. Thank you, Freddie, and the others who have joined him.
Freddie is someone I know since I was a child. I met him in grade school and we were in the same class for many years. As schools went, some children stayed at the residence, some at foster homes and some stayed at their own homes. Freddie was considerably luckier than his peers from Nemaska as he lived in the community with a kind and considerate family and did not have to endure the residential school in his later high school years.
School was tough and strict in those days. Penalties for misdemeanors carried a heavy price; sometimes the strap was laid low if you dared cross the line. We were not allowed to carry lethal weapons such as the slingshot and what little bird hunting we could manage had to be done early in the morning or after school, out of range of our nemesis, the terrible Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson (who was an exact replica of the one in the Dennis the Menace comic strip), would search every little boy for the offending stick with rubber and leather and tear them up in full view of the others and many a little boy had to return home to his father or grandfather to explain why he needed a new slingshot.
For some reason, Freddie, who was the biggest kid in school, had managed to smuggle his slingshot and carry it around undetected until the morning recess, when in the chilly autumn wind, a lone snow goose ventured close to the school playground. We called for all its worth, to that lone goose and then suddenly, it fell to the ground silently. We looked at Freddie, who had this incredible grin on his face, as he calmly put his slingshot away and picked up his kill by the neck.
Without a word, he sped off to his foster home and presented his catch of the day to his delighted adopted family. They would eat well that day.
Meanwhile, when the bell for the end of recess set off, we ventured back to class. “Now where did Mr. Jolly disappear to?” asked the teacher.
“Freddie killed a goose and went home” sputtered a buddy. Not believing him, the teacher made a major investigation and discovered that Freddie did indeed fell a goose with his slingshot. Freddie was the talk of the teachers and staff and became a hero that day and not a word was ever brought up about the illegal slingshot. Thanks Freddie for the memories.