Thursday Tidbits

Posted on December 31, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Outdoor winter games


“Will the circle be unbroken,

By and by, Lord by and by.”

I can answer that one.


Truth be told, I had planned to mail this in, my last post of 2020. Do you know what “mailing it in” means? A refresher. I would be willing to bet, that with very few exceptions, we have all mailed it in at least once in our life. We can’t have our “A game” all the time. There are days in our working lives that we’ve shown up for work and done the absolute minimum to maintain our employment. We breathed in oxygen, we went through the motions of work but truly, our employer would have been better off if we had just stayed at home.

After 2 posts a week, every Monday and Thursday for the past 10 years (plus numerous tributes and other assorted detritus) -1179 posts in all, I was going to take New Year’s Eve off and just mail it in, wishing you a happy New Year, and nothing more.

That is until I received a message that there were Inuit games out on the lake on Tuesday. It’s about a 25- minute walk from my place to the first in a series of lakes eventually connecting to Ungava Bay. I walked through town and then jumped on the skidoo trail running beside the frozen brook that bisects the village. Off in the distance I could see a large crowd along with many skidoos, Hondas (all 4-wheelers up here are called Hondas), hamutiqs (sleds) and trucks.

It was a cold morning but not bitterly cold and there was no wind. It was an ideal day for outdoor games.

A game was in progress when I arrived. Many students came by to say hello and several of them offered hugs which I cheerfully accepted. I was literally thrust into the large circle that had formed to play the game. In the middle of the circle was a huge block of wood and a hand saw. The person running the game also occupied the inner circle – a moderator and referee of sorts. I did not know it at the time, but these games are taken quite seriously and there are significant cash prizes for the winners.

Several die (dice) were placed equidistant around the circle. The moderator would then choose a number between 1-6. All of the die would be rolled and continuously passed around the circle. Anyone who rolled the correct number on the dice would get to run to the middle and start sawing through the block of wood only to be replaced hastily by the next person who had rolled the correct number. The die  flew around the circle. Once it landed in your hands, you had a fraction of a second before passing it along to the next participant.

I am never a reluctant participant but on this day, I was content to be a spectator. Both my knee and my back were killing me and I was wearing my Michelin man outfit which made bending awkward and difficult. The first time the dice landed at my feet, it took me several seconds to actually get down to ground level to pick it up. I received a few stares bordering on glares. I wasn’t playing fast enough. I’m a quick study so I decided to get down on my knees like most of the other contestants. Truthfully, I should have been awarded a prize on the spot for this feat of dexterity. The next time you’re chatting with the Michelin man, ask him what it’s like to try and get down on his knees.

The further the saw bit into the block of wood, the more the excitement level rose. The die were literally flying around the circle and people with the right number were frantically running to the block of wood hoping to be the one to deliver the last saw cut entitling them to the winnings. I could see why there was so much of a buzz. The prize was $300.

Now, picking up a dice with seal skin gloves on is next to impossible. No, it is impossible so like everyone else, I removed mine. A chill went through my bony fingers. It was easy to discern that a winner would be crowned any second as the hand saw neared the bottom of the block of wood.

And wouldn’t ya know it. I rolled a 3 which was the golden number at that moment. “Run, Len, run”. I felt like Forrest Gump. Not really. It took me several seconds to get back into a standing position. In retrospect, I probably could have gotten there just as fast if I had just crawled.

There is a certain etiquette to the game that escaped me until I became an active participant. When you get to the wood, you’re supposed to say “My turn”. I didn’t realize this as several other people with winning numbers stampeded towards me. I grabbed the saw from the previous participant. I looked down and could see that one more pull on the saw would yield me $300. My joy was short lived as I was bowled over by at least two people and landed on my arse, much to the amusement of half the population of Kangiqsujuaq. I sheepishly waddled back to my spot in the circle.

A song ran through my head.

“The First Cut is the Deepest”

The last cut is the richest!

Wishing all of my long-suffering readers a Happy New Years.

P.S. I decided to take the airport road back home as the walking would be much easier. I was offered a ride on a ‘Honda’ by a woman and her daughter. Rarely do I accept a ride preferring to walk. After the failed rugby scrum at the wood block, I was only too happy to accept. I rode side saddle all the way down to the school holding on for dear life. The road through town is ice covered all the time. Salt would be useless up here. It’s probably my imagination but I find everyone drives very fast up here. My driver was no exception. I was well chilled and sore by the time I got home but I am so glad that I had experienced Inuit winter games.

P.P.S. The circle is no accident among indigenous people.

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