Writer’s Block: The Spirit of Fine Day

Grace—and new al­liances—are the true mea­sures of vic­tory

More of Our Canada - - Contents - By Richard W. Hiebert, North Bat­tle­ford, Sask

Us­ing grace and un­der­stand­ing, one young man turns an en­emy into an ally.

Char­lie left his last class ten min­utes early on a wash­room break, walked pur­pose­fully to the foot­ball field, and waited for Dirk and his goons to show up. He waited pa­tiently, show­ing no emo­tion. Out­wardly, he was con­fi­dent, but in­wardly his stom­ach was churn­ing. Yet he was not afraid. Deer Run­ner (an el­der and for­mer cham­pion prize fighter) had trained him well—push­ing him beyond his lim­its in the phys­i­cal and men­tal as­pect of a war­rior’s train­ing, and pre­par­ing him spir­i­tu­ally. He was ready.

Char­lie re- cre­ated his con­fronta­tion with the school bully ear­lier in the morn­ing as “the young gi­ant” (Deer Run­ner’s name for him) and his gang, jostling and laugh­ing, made their way to class. Char­lie walked straight to Dirk, blocked his way and chal­lenged him. “Dirk! You’re slow and clumsy. You’re a bully and a racist. I’m go­ing to teach you a les­son you won’t for­get. Meet me af­ter school on the foot­ball field at the near­est goal post. Bring your goons. They can watch me kick your butt.”

Dirk couldn’t be­lieve his ears. He was speech­less as Char­lie headed for class. Fi­nally, he yelled, “You’re go­ing down, Ban­nock Boy!”

Char­lie’s mind went back to the happy days grow­ing up on the Sweet­grass Re­serve with his friends—play­ing soc­cer, rid­ing horse­back, hunt­ing in the bush and swim­ming in Bat­tle River. He longed to see his won­der­ful Kokum, who raised him. Kokum told him that the el­ders saw in him the char­ac­ter of the great war­rior Fine Day, who was war chief un­der the mighty Pound­maker. “But I see you as Char­lie Lit­tle Wolf—my grand­son—now al­most a man. We sent you to the big city to get a white man’s ed­u­ca­tion be­cause you can­not suc­ceed with­out it. But know this, too, you also can­not suc­ceed with­out know­ing the ways of the Cree, the teach­ings of the el­ders, our Ne­hiyawewin language and our cul­ture and tra­di­tions.”

Char­lie’s thoughts went back to Lake­view High School. He couldn’t for­get Dirk’s cruel per­se­cu­tion dur­ing the first se­mes­ter—how he tor­mented his friend Benny Jack­son, and dis­re­spected Skye, his girl­friend. Char­lie knew he’d have to fight Dirk, and to win, he’d have to train.

It was the month known to the Plains Cree as pima­hamowip­isim—when the snow geese fly to the south—when Char­lie be­gan his train­ing, the most dif­fi­cult un­der­tak­ing imag­in­able. When it was over, Deer Run­ner told him, “You have the heart of a war­rior and be­cause the spirit of Fine Day is with you,

you will win.” But then he said a most dif­fi­cult thing.

“When the young gi­ant is lay­ing in the dust, de­feated and un­able to rise, what will you do? Re­mem­ber the great chief Pound­maker, who de­feated Colonel Ot­ter and the gov­ern­ment forces at Cut Knife Hill in 1885. He held back his young men and al­lowed the sol­diers to es­cape back to Bat­tle­ford, Sask. He showed great mercy to those who would have shown him no mercy. It is the way of our peo­ple.”

The last bell rang. Hun­dreds of stu­dents poured out onto the field. Dirk and his en­tourage made their way through the crowd, laugh­ing and jok­ing, throw­ing fake punches and high-fiv­ing one an­other.

“Let’s get this over with, Dirk. I’ve got hockey prac­tice in half an hour,” taunted Char­lie, demon­strat­ing his con­fi­dence.

“You won’t be in shape for hockey or any­thing else, Ban­nock Boy. They’ll be tak­ing you away in a body bag,” shouted Dirk.

With the fury of a rag­ing an­i­mal, Dirk charged. Char­lie’s left heel caught a low mound of grass, and he stum­bled mo­men­tar­ily as Dirk’s left hand caught him full- force. Char­lie stag­gered and fell. The crowd roared, be­liev­ing their cham­pion had made short work of the chal­lenger. Dirk, too, thought it was over.

Char­lie started to re­gain his senses, still in a fog. He hurt badly. How would he ever live this down? The bat­tle had been lost over a clump of dead grass.

Then he heard it—the pierc­ing cry of a Cree war­rior echo­ing in the dis­tance. Char­lie strained to see through eyes clouded by blood, sweat and dirt. He saw the clouds rush away, and there, rid­ing the wind, on a mag­nif­i­cent war horse, was a vi­sion of the great war chief Fine Day. “Fine Day, you’ve come to help me,” whis­pered Char­lie.

“Have courage, my son. You are a war­rior of the Plains Cree. Fight like one. Use his strength against him. Vic­tory is yours.” Then the ap­pari­tion, shrouded in swirling mists, faded into the dis­tance.

As he lay there, con­tem­plat­ing the amaz­ing vi­sion and Fine Day’s words, Char­lie’s courage, con­fi­dence and en­ergy re­turned. He bounded to his feet. Dirk was fac­ing the other way, or­ches­trat­ing the crowd’s vic­tory cheers. Sud­denly, the crowd fell silent.

“He’s up, Dirk. Pound him down!” yelled one of Dirk’s fans. Dirk slowly turned around, in­cred­u­lous. His face con­torted with rage, the young gi­ant rushed his op­po­nent. Char­lie faked left and de­liv­ered a sin­gle, dev­as­tat­ing blow, driv­ing Dirk to his knees. Now in pain and about to lose ev­ery­thing, Dirk could not rise. The fight was over.

The crowd, in shocked dis­be­lief, hav­ing watched their hero fall so ig­no­min­iously, moved back to­wards the school in si­lence, leav­ing Char­lie and Dirk alone on he field of bat­tle. Nei­ther said any­thing for a long time. Then, Char­lie reached down and pulled Dirk to a stand­ing po­si­tion.

“Why are you help­ing me, man? I wouldn’t have helped you. I’m your en­emy, re­mem­ber?” said Dirk hoarsely through blood-caked lips.

“You’re not my en­emy, Dirk. I won a fight, that’s all,” said Char­lie.

“Yeah. You’ve got some­thing I don’t have, man. Any­way, it doesn’t mat­ter. I’m fin­ished. I won’t be able to show my face in the school.”

“Ac­tu­ally, Dirk, you could turn this into a big win if you look at it the right way.” “Se­ri­ous? I don’t see how, man, but I’m lis­ten­ing.” “First, you have to see your­self as you are.” Dirk stared down at the ground for a long time. Then he looked up, tears welling in his eyes. “I know you’re right. I am a bully, a racist— a jerk. I was jeal­ous of you and Skye. How do I deal with that?” “You al­ready have Dirk; you’ve ad­mit­ted it.” “What now, Char­lie?” “Change your life, Dirk. Re­spect your teach­ers. Help and pro­tect the weaker stu­dents. Treat ev­ery­one as equals. I know you can do it.” “Will you help me, dude?” “Count on it, man. Be­sides, we need you to cap­tain the hockey team. We’re go­ing for the cham­pi­onship this year.”

“Char­lie, you’re an awe­some dude, you know that? I can­not tell you how sorry I am for how I treated you. I’m go­ing to make it up to you, I prom­ise. Thank you for ev­ery­thing, man.” Dirk ex­tended his hand for Char­lie’s. “Friends?” “Friends,” said Char­lie, with a lump in his throat. And so the young men, who only a short time be­fore were bit­ter en­e­mies, walked slowly off the field—dirk lean­ing on Char­lie’s shoul­der. ■

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