Del’s Truck

Del thought he was let­ting oth­ers use his truck. Reg thought that made the truck his.

Kayak (Canada) - - CONTENTS - Il­lus­trated by Alice RL • Writ­ten by Gu­uduniia LaBou­can

Del’s truck was a beauty. It was a Ford 150 LTX ex­tended cab, su­per camper spe­cial, vin­tage 1979. Brown with a broad yel­low stripe down the side. Del lov­ingly re­ferred to it as the Nanaimo Bar. He drove it all over and used it for hunt­ing and fish­ing, and when the win­ter came he hauled fire­wood. He left the keys in it and any­one who needed wheels could bor­row it. It would come back with a lit­tle more or a lit­tle less gas. Del liked shar­ing his truck; it made him a rich man. One day, Del was in the lo­cal cafe. Af­ter pay­ing his bill, he got up and looked out­side. His truck wasn’t there. He thought maybe Milly had to go to the gro­cery store or Big Bob was haul­ing garbage. Not too con­cerned, he headed out the door and started walk­ing. As Del en­tered town, he saw a raven swoop down onto a power line. He nod­ded to the bird. Far­ther along, he smiled and said hi to sev­eral friends. And then came the shock. There was his truck sit­ting on a used car sales lot! The lot was called Sweet Gen­er­ous Deals. It was new in town. It had a group of ve­hi­cles that had seen bet­ter days. See­ing his truck there with a sticker price on its windshield caused Del some sur­prise and con­cern. As he was check­ing to make sure it was his beloved Nanaimo Bar, a voice came from be­hind him. “She’s a beauty, eh?” Del turned around to see a short guy with a mous­tache and a fuzzy fringe of hair around a bald head. “Pleased to meet you. My name is Reg Couronne.” “Mr. Couronne, my name is Del and this here is my truck,” Del replied “Well, I am glad you can see your­self be­hind the wheel of this fine truck, Del —” said Reg. “No, no. That’s not what I mean,” Del said. “I mean this is my truck. Some­one must have brought it here to play a prank on me.” Reg shook his head. “Ac­tu­ally, I found this truck with the keys in it. The law might say that the per­son who left it that way was sim­ply invit­ing some­one else to take it. Which I did, and now it be­longs to me. In­stead of leav­ing it un­cared for, I have a bet­ter use for the truck. I aim to sell it and make me some money.” Del started to laugh, a deep belly laugh that trav­elled his whole frame. “Tell me who put you up to this. I love a good joke.” Reg looked stern. “Mr. Del, I don’t be­lieve I was be­ing funny.” Del stopped laugh­ing. “That truck is mine. I can prove it.” “Do you have own­er­ship pa­pers, or a sales in­voice or insurance forms?” Reg asked. “Well, no . . . See, the truck was my Dad’s and he gave it to me. We didn’t bother with any pa­pers. I don’t in­sure the truck be­cause that would cost more than it’s worth. Be­sides, I only drive around here on the back roads.”

“Ah, then you have no proof of own­er­ship,” Reg said with a greedy smile. “Noth­ing a judge would point to and say ‘Oh, yes; this truck is Del’s.’” Del was get­ting an­noyed now. “I may not have any pa­pers, but I can de­scribe this truck down to every mark and scrape. That dent on the bumper hap­pened when I hit a deer on the log­ging road out near Port Ren­frew. That stain on the seat was when Milly’s kids spilled ketchup from their fries. And that fish­ing rod hang­ing in the rack is my brother Bill’s. “I know that the right-hand mir­ror needs a bit of duct tape to hold it up. The en­gine makes a knock­ing sound go­ing up­hill. Heck, I can sing you all the songs on the cas­settes in the glove box. How about ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart,’ by Hank Wil­liams?” He took a deep breath but Reg cut him off. “Please, Mr. Del! I don’t want to hear you sing. In fact, I have a tin ear — I couldn’t tell one song from the other.” Del was get­ting des­per­ate. “I can get some of my fam­ily and friends over here to back me up. They’ll tell you the truck is mine. Heck, they drive it more than I do.” “Hon­estly, it doesn’t mat­ter how many peo­ple tell me you own the truck,” Reg replied. “The fact is that I have the truck. In fact, you said ev­ery­one drives it, so how can it be yours alone? I, on the other hand, have sole and ex­clu­sive pos­ses­sion of this truck at this mo­ment. And you can bet I won’t leave the keys in it un­guarded.” “This is crazy!” Del sput­tered. “How can you claim own­er­ship when the truck is mine and has been in my fam­ily for more than twenty years?” “That’s the law,” Reg said with a shrug. “You have no proof of own­er­ship. And how do I know that any­one else who drives it won’t come by and claim to own it?” He grinned. “But hey — I’m a busi­ness­man. You can buy the truck or lease it for a monthly fee. If you lease, you

can use it just like you own it. Of course, you can’t change the truck in any way — no big tires or new paint jobs. You can still use it to hunt and fish and move fire­wood, but you can’t haul bricks in it. At the end of the lease, you can re­turn it and get a new ve­hi­cle. That’s why we’re called Sweet Gen­er­ous Deals!” Del couldn’t be­lieve his ears. “How can you lease me a truck you don’t own?” he yelled. “That truck is mine and I’m go­ing to prove you stole it!” But Reg Couronne was gone, talk­ing to a young cou­ple look­ing at a mini­van. Del scrunched up his eyes, hop­ing he would open them and find him­self back at the cafe with his truck parked out­side. No such luck. All he saw was Couronne, his frizzy hair in a ring around his head. Del walked slowly away from the lot. The sound of the raven caw­ing over the val­ley fol­lowed him.

The au­thor of this story, Gu­uduniia (pro­nounced GUUD- N- eye) LaBou­can, is a Cree bi­ol­o­gist, lawyer and writer who lives in Bri­tish Columbia. She based “Del’s Truck” on a fa­mous case in B.C. about First Na­tions land rights, known as Del­ga­muukw. It was named for the Gitxsan Chief, Earl Mul­doe Del­ga­muukw, who brought it to court along with the Wet’suwet’en Chief Dini ze’ Gis­day’ wa ( Al­fred Joseph). The two na­tions ar­gued their peo­ple had never given up a huge chunk of land in north­west­ern B. C. where the gov­ern­ment wanted to al­low log­ging. In 1991, a judge ruled Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en own­er­ship dis­ap­peared when B. C. be­came part of Canada. (The judge also said he didn’t want to lis­ten to tra­di­tional songs about the two na­tions’ con­nec­tion with their lands be­cause he had “a tin ear.”) A new rul­ing in 1997 set­tled some ques­tions but not oth­ers. It said In­dige­nous peo­ple did have rights over their lands, and that gov­ern­ments had to work with them. It also set out rules a nation had to fol­low to prove a ter­ri­tory be­longed to it. In this story, Del is short for Del­ga­muukw and Reg Couronne rep­re­sents the Crown — a term that in­cludes the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment, with the Queen at its head. And the raven is a well- known trick­ster fig­ure among many West Coast In­dige­nous peo­ples.

-Nancy Payne

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