Sunday, December 17, 2006
Christmas In The Arctic - 1
Michael Kusugak, who grew up in Repulse Bay on the west coast of Hudson Bay, wrote a great story back in the 1990's about a Christmas when he was young. A single engined Norseman aircraft stopped to refuel and the pilot decided to lighten his load for some reason. He off-loaded six "spindly" fir trees and dumped them in the snow and then once he'd finished re-fueling the plane he took off.
At Christmas, one of the boys got a ball as a gift from the Hudson's Bay Store manager. After tossing it around for a while, he and his friends tired of it until someone suggested they play baseball. This idea fell rather flat as no one had a bat and there was little wood in the tiny settlement at that time to use for one. Then they remembered the trees the pilot had left! In no time, one of the trees was dug out of the snow, its branches chopped off and a baseball bat made from the trunk. The new sport of baseball was an instant hit. During the year, all six trees eventually became baseball bats as the old ones wore out or got lost.
A few years ago an Inuit family from Repulse Bay spent the winter near me and I had one of the children in my class. He was too young to remember the days of making baseball bats from Christmas trees, but he had been befriended by Victoria Jason, the lady who paddled her kayak through the Northwest Passage and wrote about it in 'Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak'. So it turned out we had a friend in common as I had met and corresponded with Victoria for several years before she died. She was just the kind of person who would have loved to play Christmas tree baseball with the Inuit children she met along her way.