CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 23. . . .February 19, 2010
Today, most Canadian adults expect little of most seven-year-old children other than that they go to school and play with their friends. Such was not the case for Kawlija who lived in the 1950s with her Salteaux father, Cree mother and her five-year-old brother, Chi-Jean, in the rural Manitoba community of Duck Bay. To make the money they needed to survive, the family followed a regular migratory cycle. Summer saw them travelling some 30 miles to the Kettle Hills via bush roads. There, the family lived in a tent and cooked over open fires. The adults' days were consumed by harvesting the wild blueberries in the Kettle Hills. Travelling via a wagon pulled by a team of horses, the family might take up to four days to reach their picking destination where they were joined by some fifteen other families. As well as picking blueberries in the summer, Kawlija's mother and father dug Seneca root. In the spring and fall, her parents worked at lumber camps, and in the winter Kawlija went to school while her father trapped.
Now that Kawlija has turned seven, her father says, "Mommy and I think it's time for you to learn to work with us and help us make money [by picking blueberries]." Kawlija readily agrees and tells her father that she will put aside her childhood behaviour of just eating the wild berries and that she will pick clean, that is, her boxes will have "no leaves, twigs or unripened fruit, but only 25 pounds of huge delicious, ripe dark blueberries." However, almost as soon as the family reaches their campsite, Kawlija forgets her promise and gorges on blueberries, and the next day, her first "official" day of berry picking, she again succumbs to temptation. Ashamed at her weakness, she confesses to her father who finds an age-appropriate solution.
When I first read this "Yes, he will" passage, I thought some text had been omitted and concluded that Kawlija's promise was that she would "pick clean." However, two text pages later, when I read about Kawlija's stuffing blueberries into her mouth, I realized that her promise was to pick the berries and not to eat them. At this point, I returned to p. 19 and recognized that the text should have read, "Yes, it will."
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.