How gracefully your fingertips touched the brim of
Pulling them gently as to not disturb the hair on my forehead.
That was the gentlest you’d ever been.
The sun beat down and paraded itself in through our kitchen window
Creeping slowly across to the spot where I sat,
Shoulders against the cupboards
There was a playfulness in your eyes that I hadn’t seen in a while.
“You still like me don’t you?”
I struggled to find my sentence…“Of course.”
And with the swiftness of a fox, he jumped to his feet and stretched out his hand.
His hand stood perfectly still in the air above my anxious eyes.
I glanced outward my own hand, resting lightly on the floor.
I flipped it over, the lines were still there, the lifeline included.
I must be alive.
Counting my fingertips, I raised my hand slowly and met with the hand of this man, a stranger to me now.
I wondered, as I arose, how much time I spent sitting against the cupboard beneath the window.
My feet were hot, having been touched by the passing sun and shadows.
I followed slowly, apprehensive, the body leading me down the hallway.
I walked past framed photos of someone who looked like me, with someone who looked like him. Impossible.
He must have noticed the essence of sadness on my face.
“Don’t you remember?”
“What is there to remember?”
His confident, boyish stance turned quickly into a slump.
He looked at me as if he could see directly through me.
“I wish you would wake up.”
I was thinking tonight, as I was trying desperately to fall asleep, about a skidoo trip that my Dad and I took when I was 14-15 years old. We took a three hour run to Red Bay, Labrador from St. Lewis. Our intention was to pick up my Aunt’s new skidoo, but we got a lot more then we bargained for.
I remember the ride up was really warm. The sun was particularly bright, the trees in the heavily wooded trails cast big shadows over the perfectly groomed snow. I was sitting on the back of my dad’s Skidoo, enjoying every minute.
We reached Red Bay perfectly, stopping only once along the way at half-way Cabin, which I believe was in a place called Eastern Brook.. which locals call “Easter Brook”. I remember having a raspberry flakie, and sharing a can of vienna saussages with my dad.
When we picked up my Aunt’s skidoo I remember it being quite beautiful. I loved the color, it was dark metallic blue. I wanted to drive it, Dad said no. I didn’t care much because it still meant I could drive one of the two skidoos by myself, and driving Dad’s was a big deal.
Before we left to go home, we took a trip ‘up along’ to Forteau and visited the Riff’s store. I remember nagging Dad until he bought me a pair of sneakers, they were Adidas, and called “Savage.” They were blue, grey, and had metallic piping. I was really proud of them.
When we got back to Red Bay and were ready to hit the trail, dad was hesitant. It looked a little overcast but nothing that probably wasn’t already cleared up on the other side, so we were off.
I remember feeling all powerful handeling my Dad’s skidoo all by myself. I remember the first 20 minutes being particularly hard, as I had to try and keep up with Dad as best I could. Eventually I got the hang of it, and I was tailing Dad like a race car driver. More then once I almost slid into his bumper bar.
The next thing I remember was the snow. It was falling so thick. And it just kept getting thicker, and thicker. And soon it was dark. I didn’t think the ride home would take that long, as often time seems to go faster when you’re returning from somewhere. But the night seemed to stretch on forever and I was getting scared.
We were at the point where Dad was going really slow, and being an experienced outdoorsman who operated the grooming equipment for that trail for many years, Dad looking lost made me very frightened. I kept as close as I could, but oftentimes I could barely see his tail light. He stopped.
I remember driving up along side of him and seeing the look on his face. He was scared and I didn’t know how to react. Then we saw lights, there were more skidoos approaching. Something good was happening now, I thought.
There was a parade of them, I think maybe 4 or 5. It was a family and some friends from the Lodge Bay area, a family of Pye’s. They were driving from Red Bay as well with Komatiks’ full of groceries for their general store. We all proceeded ahead, together, in a row, and one by one we faced the challenges.
We drifted off trail I believe, either that or the trail had gotten so overpacked with snow it was unrecognizable. I recall a large hole full of tree boughs that every skidoo managed to get stuck in, and I was the last in line. I stopped before the big hole, dad on the other side unable to help me, waving me forward. What do I do? I thought. I put my skidoo in reverse. I pushed the button again to put her in forward gear. I gripped the handlebars as tight as I could, clenched my legs against the seat and gas tank, and hammered the throttle against the handle bar, and In and out of the hole I flew – the only one to not get stuck!
And then another incident. The man towing the komatik with the heaviest goods lost sight of where he was going momentarily and ended up skimming quickly down over a large embankment of snow, he jumped off his skidoo in fear of the komatik falling over on him. When he got up and looked back at his skidoo, the towbar that held the komatik to the back of the skidoo was bent like a very large U. It took him and my dad several tries with all of their might to shape it back somewhat to be able to tow it again.
Eventually we found a cabin. We all piled in, a very tight fit. Once the fire was lit everyone started to relax a little, but there was a lot of chatter as to what people back at home were thinking.. they couldn’t have known we found shelter. I remember going through my backpack and hauling out a flashlight, I put it on the table and people asked me why I packed one. When I woke up that morning before my trip something inside me told me to pack that flashlight, and I never questioned it. Little did I know people would be relying on it that night to keep watch outside, and run back and forth to the ‘bathroom’ with it.
One person slept on the floor by the woodstove. I slept up on the loft, still fully clothed in my skidoo gear. I peed my pants that night out of fear of going outside the cabin and running in to a Polar Bear. It was an irrational fear, but one I didn’t mind the wet pants over.
After dawn broke, the storm had ceased some. We got on our skidoos and started the voyage home again. One person, who was probably just a few years older then I was, kept tipping her skidoo and slowing down the crowd. Eventually she agreed to get on with me and leave her skidoo behind, but I think that was only because she had ran out of gas.
When I saw the tiny houses of Lodge Bay that day I couldn’t have been happier. The family that had been travelling with us had a relative who invited us in for tea. I went in with Dad, reluctantly, but I was itching to get home. As Dad took sip after agonizing sip of his tea, he finally said, “Let’s go home maid.”
When we got outside he told me I could drive my Aunts skidoo home, and I was in my glee! A brand new skidoo for me to break in. I felt like I ruled the world. After I got on, Dad motioned for me to go ahead, and I led the way home back to St. Lewis, proud as a peacock.
When I got in my warm, toasty house that afternoon my mom gave me the biggest hug I think I ever received. I was so glad to be back in my house, and thankful for the warm bath that followed. I remember eating a turkey and dressing sandwich and I chomped it down as fast as I could – I remembered I had new sneakers in my backpack!
I scurried to the room and hauled them out of my bag. They were freezing. I went to school after dinner wearing my new sneakers and people were asking me questions about what had happened. I told them bits and pieces, but being a youngster, unphased by danger, I was concerned only with how proud I felt about my new sneakers.
I feel the need to make comment about a recent situation that has made national headlines. A 14-year-old boy from Makkovik Labrador who went missing on his snowmobile and was found frozen to death on the ice.
From what news organizations have been reporting, when this boy had gone missing his parents instantly began a search with members of the community. I have no doubt what-so-ever that they did everything humanly possible to find their child. Yes, I say their, because we all know that in this province the community raises a child.
Canada’s DND didn’t respond right away. It is said it’s because of weather. I won’t make any direct comments regarding that because I –nor anyone else- may never know the exact reasoning as to why these search and rescue helicopters didn’t make it to the scene. But one can’t help but question that these aircrafts are certainly better equipped then the regular old chopper that takes workers back and forth to mining operations and fishing expeditions.
I’m responding to this situation not as a reporter, but as a concerned Labradorian. This could have been my little cousin. This could have been my best friends child. This could have been anyone.
I know from having lived in Labrador for 20 years of my life that the weather is anything but predictable. I know that I’ve been riding my own snowmobile since I was 13-years-old. It’s a right of passage and a way of life in small communities – you can’t dismiss it if you haven’t lived it.
To anyone casting blame over the parents in this situation – shame on you. Do you let your child go outside your door to ride a bike to school, to take the bus to school, to walk to their grandparents house? Yeah you do. Anything can happen at any time, this couldn’t have been predicted.
Accidents happen. Tragic accidents happen. Instead of casting blame over something that nobody would have dreamed to happen, try having a little sympathy. Walk a cold mile in young Burton Winters shoes.