Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Written by Will Grandours

It was a nice warm day just after New Years and me and Edgar was sitting in the sun at the burn-barrel, having a pint and watching all the Christmas wrap and other stuff go up in smoke. Every now and then a spray can went off like a .410 gauge and I guess that’s what got the neighbour excited, because she comes across through the cedars like a cow moose in heat bellowing, “What do you think you’re doing?” So I give her the standard Indian answer that we use to answer questions that don’t need to be asked: “Who me?” That got her going pretty good. “Of course ‘YOU”! Who do you think I mean? What’s going on?” “Oh, me and Edgar’s just having a pint, that’s all.” Then she stamped her foot like an uptight doe and yelled, “The fire, the fire, what are you burning, that’s what I’m talking about?”

“Oh, that. I was just going to send some smoke signals to my ancestors, wish them a Happy New Year and stuff like that.” “But you can’t do that, you can’t do that!” she screeched, pointing at the barrel. “Yuh, I think maybe you’re right, because I been trying it for years and they never get back to me.”

Jeez, anyways, that got her mad. She started lecturing ’bout me a First Nation guy should know better, being insensitive to the ‘viroment and other stuff, and that’s when Edgar told her he had something important to say to her, and when she got quiet he lifted one butt-cheek off his stump and let go a bit of moose-meat and Molson - loud too. Anyways, we take to laughing and she run back through the trees yelling she was going to phone the cops and the Ministry and put me in jail.

Anyways, about a pint and a half later the cops pull into the yard. A he and a she. He marches up to me and looks at me and says accusing like, “Billy Bigbear?” Course, I gave the standard Indian answer again (Who me?) with a bit of the ‘you got the wrong guy’ look.

That shook him up a bit because he realized that by assuming the Indian-looking guy would have an Indian-sounding name that maybe he had just committed one of those signs of prejudice sins they told him about in Ontario Police College. So he tries to cover his mistake and says to Edgar kind of humble, “Are you Mr. Bigbear?” And old Edgar lets out a howl, “No you dumb p---k, I’m Edgar Doucet, do I look like a %$&#*g Bigbear?” Now that was pretty funny, so we both starts laughing and slapping our legs and even the she-cop thought that was pretty funny, but Mr. Muscle didn’t, he was smokin’.

He squinted his eyes like Dirty Harry, pulled out his note book from his parka-pocket and tipped his finger at me and said, “You know what’s funny? I’m going to charge you with as many things as I can think of under the ‘Viroment Protection Act, and I’m going to see to it that the municipality charges you under their anti-burning by-law, do you think that’s funny?” “Jeez, no. You can charge me for that ‘viroment stuff? I thought only ‘viroment guys could do that.” “Watch me” he says. “What’s your full name and date of birth?” “Who, me?”

Jeez, I didn’t even say it to be smart that time; it was just a reflex thing. He went nuts.



Anyways, like we used to say when I was a kid on The Rez., when the bear is charging you on the bald-arse prairie, don’t bother looking for a tree – what you need is a friend with a loaded gun.

Edgar nailed him. “What the hell are you talking about? You stick your Protection Act up your arse. Billy’s just cooking up some moose scraps for his dogs and you come in here like Old Custer threatening him with jail? You get your blue ass back in your buggy before I call those human rights guys and tell them how you’re picking on him because he’s an Indian. Get going - or by the Christ, you’ll be spending your summer in Caledonia where you’ll have to be nice to the Indians and arrest all the white guys.”

Now that kind of humped him over like a gut-shot deer. Then Edgar and me started talking again as if they weren’t there and after a bit they just turned and walked back to their car. He was grumbling under his breath like Fred Flintstone, something about he hoped the day would come when he stopped us on the road.

Anyways, we noticed that the wind was shifting and was starting to blow more towards the neighbour’s place. So we moved around the barrel so the smoke wouldn’t get in our eyes and threw some more fuel on the fire.

Will Grandours (Billy Bigbear) lives in Nippissing.

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