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Norm Zigarlick, Always Something Funny Going On, contd.

or a heavy equipment operator or whatever else he chose to do at the time. He seemed a bit rough around the edges, but he really was a gentle giant. In the 1980s there was a very demeaning joke going around. I happened to be there when it was raised, so was Charlie. The question was, “what’s long and hard on an Indian?” The answer was grade three. Charlie just laughed and said, “well they got that one right, it took me two tries.” ≈∞≈

Max was from Metis roots; he and I were heavy equipment operators at an open pit mine in the north. After working the midnight shift, at 8:00 am on a fall morning he suggested we go moose hunting. Off we went and soon we were in the thick of an NWT muskeg when Max noticed new tracks. He said “there is one around here somewhere.” He figured the best strategy on this dead calm morning was to sit very still and quiet until we got a sense of what was going on in the neighborhood. Off in the distance we finally heard some rustling in the branches and what seemed to be the sound of a breaking twig. He whispered, “let’s hope it’s a bull, I'll try calling and see.” In the fall a bull moose looking for a date is pretty aggressive. If he thinks another bull is trying to cut in on a date, he'll come thundering along with battle as the plan. Max told me to be ready to shoot before 1200 pounds of male mammal showed up, because they traveled fast and took no prisoners. He didn't want me fumbling with a rifle while trying to run backwards. Max had a “moose caller,” basically a megaphone shaped from birch bark. For anybody that hasn't heard a moose being called, it sounds pretty much like something very big and in desperate need of a laxative. Max did his best dating pitch, and sure enough we heard a grunt and the sound of movement. It lasted about five seconds then all went silent. We waited quietly for a minute or two and still nothing. He handed me the date caller and said “here you try one.” I made a sound like an accident victim and immediately there was movement in the bush. That bad news was that it was moving in the wrong direction. Max stood up and said “we might as well go home, he ain't coming back, you probably sounded too sick to screw!” ≈∞≈

When I met Eddy he had just snuck up on 40 years old; he was very small and he had some issues with FASD.* He was my helper on a project for six months. A lady 60 dialogue

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friend was visiting me and we were about to have lunch, one Sunday afternoon, when Eddy dropped by. He is a very happy-go-lucky guy who functions well at many levels, but in some areas his judgment is a bit clouded. It never interfered with his sense of funny. He sat down and had a coffee with us, he is quite the lady charmer and was soon telling his life story. He said, “I was born really small, I was one of those uh ummm what do ya call them”? My friend said, “Were you a preemie?” He said, “That's it! There I was swimming around in there (as he made swimming like motions) and I decided I gotta get out of here early, way toooooo much alcohol.” He managed to find humor in his own difficulties. ≈∞≈

Pauline is from a large family. Some of her relatives became quite well known in Alberta politics. When I met her, she was just finishing up a Master’s Degree in Education. We had been discussing a board game (TOPONA) that I had worked on developing with a couple of Dene ladies. Somehow along the way we got talking about ambition, ability and work ethic. That brought up the name of a community that was a bit famous for having not much of any of the above. I said I would like to have a go there at creating some job opportunities, and getting some local folks involved in grassroots projects. She looked me in the eye and said, “Unless there has been a culture change since I woke up this morning, that isn't going to happen.” ≈∞≈

A friend of mine was Chief of a Dene Band in a very remote northern community. He had to deal with bureaucrats from many agencies on a regular basis. His wife wasn't fond of the government folks that were always coming or going. She simply called them “necktie people.” – the rationale being if they were all Indians because they looked alike to an outsider, then the tag necktie people was appropriate for the bureaucrats because they all seemed alike as well! ≈∞≈

For the most part, in my experiences, the humour was always in the moment, not planned, but always expected. That doesn't mean they can't deliberately deliver a thought out funny story. One of my Cree friends, going all the way back to late 1960s, went on to become a well-known broadcaster, performer, stand-up comedian. He has just completed a stint as the Commissioner for the Northwest Territories. The position is on par with being a Lieutenant Governor www.dialogue.ca

Dialogue Vol.30, No.1 digital edition  

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