Thursday, July 28, 2016
Sometimes I have to kick myself. I'm supposed to be a story teller. A reporter. But more often than I'd care to admit, when looking through photos of recent adventures, I'm confronted by the story angle I didn't pursue. The question I didn't ask. The opportunity I completely missed.
This picture of Daniel, studying the water, struck me in just that way.
I fished with Daniel for three days in Saskatchewan, out of the Arctic Lodge, and enjoyed every moment. We covered hundreds of miles of Reindeer Lake water and caught as many pike as we traveled miles. We laughed at each other's jokes, gave each other good-natured grief, and generally did what fishermen do. We fished. But I should have dug deeper. There was so much more to learn than how to catch northern pike. Stuff much more important.
Like how he'd been guiding this lake for forty-four years. How it had changed in that time. How the people, both those who lived here and those who came to fish, had changed.
Like his Cree ancestry and his involvement in the Paul Ballantyne First Nation. How his people are interwoven in the northern Saskatchewan landscape. How they exist and thrive in this harsh world.
Like how his grandchildren live with him, call to him, Papa, as we pass them as they swim in the cold lake waters beside his camp on the shore opposing the lodge.
Like how he was a tribal sheriff, or MP, or some manner of peace keeper that makes sense in the Cree context. I never fully understood, but that's not surprising.
Like his interest in the moose tracks along the shorelines and his knowledge of the movement of pike and his ability to identify birdlife from incredible distances. His connection to this place and its creatures.
Like how he lost a son, though this is a subject that we are both slow to discuss. We let it pass with a simple acknowledgement, a trite agreement that there's nothing remotely just in such a thing, and a prolonged shared silence. A bond wrapped tight in emotional barbed wire.
So I herewith apologize to you, dear reader, for failing to do my job. For not bringing back the story of a fascinating man, his community, and his history. A history that has as much to do with this beautiful and rugged lake as it does most anything else.
And, more personally, I apologize to Daniel for not getting to know him, and his story, better. In my defense, I was enjoying his company too much to pry.
I guess I'll just have to go back and get it right the next time.