The cold morning wind found cracks in the door, shutters, and even the walls from which to pinch through. When it found the two boys it stung their faces and exposed skin mercilessly, forcing them to fight for the limited cover of the thick blanket.
Joel awoke to find frost on his breath and Mukwok feeding the coals in the fireplace hoping to recapture last nights flames. After the fire was burning strong, Mukwok went to a closet and retrieved a pair of leather pants and a leather vest which he gave to Joel.
Mukwok then told Joel that he had planned to go fishing and would appreciate some company. Joel agreed, so Mukwok began foraging in the same closet for his extra pair of leather boots. When at last he found them, Mukwok threw some more wood on the fire, and the boys left Marc and Eshkebug asleep in the warming cabin.
Joel had strapped on the snowshoes as he had seen Mukwok do it, but he stopped often to tighten the leather laces whereas Mukwok did not. As he stumbled after Mukwok, Joel hollered ahead, “Won’t we need poles or nets or something? Or are you that great of a hunter that the fish jump ashore when they see you?”
Mukwok smiled broadly and laughed, “Fear not, Siginauk. What Nanabozo, won’t provide us, I will.”
Marc awoke shortly after to Eshkebug doing her daily chores. Her cleaning finished, she began baking and weaving. She was obviously a woman of many talents who even in the wilderness could manage for herself. Feeling inadequate, Marc offered to go the woodshed and restore the wood pile beside the fireplace.
As he stepped outside, he was so intent on closing the door so as not to let the cold air inside, he was startled and a little upset to find himself up to his eight year old waist in snow. He felt foolish with his topless sandals covered with over two feet of snow, and his bare legs surrounded at all angles. Over to one side of the cabin he could see a shovel that Mukwok probably used in his garden. Marc fought his way to it, then started to clear two paths one to the woodshed and the other to the outhouse. When he at last removed enough snow to allow him to open the outhouse door, he did so and heartily entered it.
Marc returned to the cabin carrying an armful of wood, and once in, limped over to the fire and stayed there until his teeth ceased chattering.
Joel still had no fishing tool when he arrived at the river, he gave Mukwok a questioning glance, but Mukwok only smiled and walked to an old fallen tree trunk. He dug snow away from its end, and from within a hollow in the log retrieved two wooden barbed spears.
“And,” said Joel, “who provided that, Nanabozo or you?”
“It was team work.” Mukwok tossed a spear at Joel who caught it. “Nanabozo provided the materials, I provided the skill. Nanabozo hasn’t yet…”
As Mukwok talked a bit longer, Joel jabbed his spear into the water and pulled out a fair sized fish. Mukwok stopped in mid sentence and his mouth gaped open. Joel looked in his direction and sternly said, “Do you want to talk, or fish?”
They fished for a few hours and had caught a dozen fish. Mukwok had not talked much, as he was concentrating deeply so that the American city boy would not show him up, but to no avail.
“Well,” said Mukwok slapping Joel on the back, “we had better quit and leave some fish in the stream for the people down river.”
Joel returned Mukwok’s slap on the back and said, “That’s been my philosophy all along. How do you think you managed to catch three?”
“You are a good man, Siginauk!” said Mukwok putting his spear back into the log. He then took Joel’s spear and threaded the twelve fish through side gills and mouths onto it. “And a good fisherman. And like all good fisherman, you must carry your catch home.” Mukwok gave Joel the fish laden spear and the two began the way back home.
As they got nearer to the cabin, Mukwok said, “Go on ahead and get that lazy Waemitigozhi to clean those fish. That is if he isn’t still in bed.” Mukwok looked into the trees. “I’ve got to check on my grandson.”
Joel went along alone, tripping and falling now even though the going was easier on the way back as the snow had been packed down.
Mukwok couldn’t believe it, when he arrived, his grandson was down from the tree and was dancing around the meadow. Mukwok waved to his grandson, and the boy dashed toward him. He ran as fast as any dear. His long hair was dragging behind in the wind.
“Oh grandfather, it feels so wonderful being whole again,” said the young Mukwok. “I could hunt for weeks and fish for months without stopping.”
Mukwok grabbed his grandson and held him tightly. “It is good, it is a blessing, that you are made whole on the eve of the birthday of Kitche Manito’s son. Let’s go home, your family has waited very long for your arrival.”
As they walked home, the clouds that had held their contents since early morning let their snow flutter to the ground. When they came to the deeper snow outside of the wind swept meadow, Mukwok had to carry his grandson as he only had one set of snowshoes with him.
When Mukwok and his grandson reached the cabin, the fish was ready for eating, and the young Mukwok ate his share and more. After lunch, Mukwok sent his free soul to tell his children, and their’s, and their’s, and their’s that their grandson was born again and ready for his celebration.
The snow began to fall harder and it became apparent that Marc and Joel were not going to make it back to town that night. Eshkebug could see that they were disappointed, and she walked over and softly said, “Your friends miss you, but so will we when you are gone. My grandson’s party would be lacking without you.”
Marc knew that this was not true, all of Mukwok’s relatives even those with the smallest relation would be there. A few more faces, a few white faces, would not make the celebration any more or less pleasant. Even though this was evident he smiled, took her hand, and said, “Thank you, Eshkebug. You are a wise woman.”
The celebration was held in a tree grove. Marc could not tell exactly what manner of trees they were, but they were short, had thick trunks, and were bushy. Following the branch of one tree, Joel noted that it became the branch of another tree. All of one tree’s branches, that were long enough to do so, mingled with and became the branches of other trees. Even though the leaves had fallen from the trees weeks ago, this tightly wove community of branches formed a very large canopy or tent. Joel surmised that the Ojibwa, like the Utopians, had acquired some very strong treelore.
The tent was already filled with many Indians, some of which were obviously Métis, Apitowizi. Many danced to the booming of drums accompanied by a flute like melody, made by the wind blowing the upper most branches of the tent. Some of the Indians, were not children at all, but fully grown men and women, and a few were even well past sixty years of age. These Indians being taller than the rest and taller than the ceiling of the tent, walked in a hunched position or were on their knees.
There was plenty of food, from deer meat to wild carrots, and a very tasty spring water with which to wash it down. The food was not placed on a large table, but was set near the person who had brought it. If someone wanted some deer meat, he would have to introduce or present himself to the owner; pleasantries were exchanged, customs followed, and the deer meat would cheerfully be given. The same was true for the water, ‘guarded’ by the owners in barrels.
The party continued through the night, and it did not loose its pace until morning. At which time, many of the Indians sat at the base of trees, and a few slept cuddled by loved ones.
The young Mukwok walked over to a thick root that had grown up out of the ground, forming a sort of dais. “Thank you, family, for the party and for your patience. You have all been generous in your presence and your donations.” Many cheers broke out and young Mukwok had to wait for them to subside. “I am sure that our party, caused the largest and brightest ‘Northern Lights’ ever. Hopefully, they will help the generation on earth remember our past and our religion.” Young Mukwok waited a moment then concluded. “Let us give thanks to Nanabozo, the Kitche Manito.”
The drums began to beat a slow and relaxing strain, and the Indians hummed and sang a very moving song. When the drums stopped everyone said goodbye and went home.
Young Mukwok’s new life had begun.