Friday, November 28, 2014

Adventurous George (6)


George woke to the sound of a motor boat. Not a big one, just the putter of a little engine. He was up in a flash and out the door and into view of his bay in no time, Mottles peeked out from behind a rock too. There were three of them, two in a boat and one in a canoe which was being towed behind. They saw him too, just as surprised as he was. They waved as they coasted onto the beach and George headed down to greet them. They had come, it seemed, for some of the best wild rice in the country which grew in several bays just around the east side of the island, and this was where they always camped for a night while they filled their boat. They were more curious about George than he was about them, and he was soon showing them his cabin and his stove and they laughed and laughed and began calling him a snowball which made him laugh too, and even Mottles was taken to them and that really made them laugh as he jumped in their boat and sniffed everything. They were from a reserve north of the big city, a mother and father and their son, and they made several trips here every August for the rice which George was becoming very interested about.

George went about his setting rabbit snares when they left to harvest rice after putting up a tent. When he finished he got in his boat to fish and was drawn to venture around the east shore to see what his new friends were doing. He found them in a grassy bay, the son was standing in the back of the canoe with a pole, pushing through the grass and the father sat towards the front with two sticks which he would use to pull the grass over the canoe and lightly shake, and then go on to the next strands. It looked so easy.

That evening as they cooked some nice white fish which George had caught near the bay, they told him all about processing the rice. They had put all their days collection, about four hundred pounds, in sacks and as soon as they got home tomorrow evening they would spread it out on tarps to pick over for leaves and bugs and to dry for several days in the warm sun. Then came the parching which would be done in open pans on a big stove top. It had to be stirred constantly till it turned a glossy dark brown as the kernels separated from the chaff. Then came the hulling which further separated the kernels from the chaff. They put a layer of rice in a large flat bottomed tub and “danced” on it, a light rubbing motion for which they wore soft moccasins that came to their knees because the chaff was prickly. Last it was winnowed, which they did using an old combine sieve, but which could also be done by tossing it from a pan to let the wind blow away the chaff. George was fascinated, this might be a real good boost for a winter food supply.

The next evening as the three returned to sack their rice before returning home they asked George if they could leave their canoe and tent and blankets for a few days till they returned for another load. George had been thinking all day. Would these nice people give him a ride to pick up some winter clothes and supplies. They would be coming back. There was a little conversation in a language George didn't understand, the outcome of which was that the boat would be too heavy for another person, but if he had money and made a list they would gladly bring back what he wanted. George knew exactly what he wanted and quickly wrote a list on a pad they gave him, and then he wrote his magic number on the bottom and gave them his bank card. “I don't know what's in the bank” he said, “but it'll be over two thousand by now. Find out at one of those machines and you can spend whatever is there.” They laughed and laughed and called him a silly snowball and were still laughing as their boat putted out onto the lake. George wondered to Mottles if he had done the right thing, but Mottles jumped on his lap and purred so soothingly that George felt he had made a good decision.

(To be continued)
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