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kitty smith [To Build a Fire] I went out to Little Atlin, one time, with my grandson Richard, his wife, my little grandchild. We go hunting out there, you know. That’s the time of year moose are running, Little Atlin. A big truck pulled up . . . stopped – – it had its house on top. It’s bigshot government man. My grandson Richard knows him.1 I don’t know him, me, but Richard knows that car with its house on. That man comes to me. ‘‘Got to take care of that, your fire,’’ he tells me. I don’t say nothing. I don’t know he’s bigshot, that man. After he finished talking, I tell him, ‘‘Look, you fellows spoil Yukon,’’ I tell him. ‘‘Yeah! That time my grandpa burned tree when he hunts moose. He makes fire. He don’t burn anything. What do you fellows do? This time you throw away cigarette stumps. Big fire. You spoil Yukon, all. Should be where your grandpa country, you stay in. Where’s your grandpa’s country? Your grandma? Where?’’ I tell him. ‘‘Well, outside, long way,’’ he said. ‘‘How the hell you’re coming here, then? Nobody called you to come here.’’ ‘‘Well, you’re right, Missus,’’ he tell me. ‘‘Me, my grandpa’s country, here. My grandma’s. My roots grow in jackpine roots all. That’s why I stay here. I don’t go to your grandpa’s country and make fire. No. My grandma’s country I make fire. Don’t burn. If I be near your grandma’s country, it’s all right you tell me.’’ ‘‘Oh, you beat me!’’ he said. He walks away. After, my grandson came back. ‘‘What you tell him, that man. You know that man is bigshot?’’ ‘‘Well, that’s all right,’’ I tell him. ‘‘I’m bigshot, too. I belong to Yukon. I never go to his country. I’m born here. I branch here! The government got kitty smith: to build a fire  all this country, how big it is. He don’t pay five cents, he got him all. Nobody kicks me out. No, sir! My roots grow in jackpine roots.’’ He laughs, my grandson. ‘‘You’re a bad woman, Grandma.’’ Billy was sick for six years before he died. He was blind then, so I hunted. I looked after him. When he was sick, before he died, he told me, ‘‘Should be you find someone to look after you. When I’m gone, you should find a new husband. If one of them asks you, go with him, my nephew.’’2 I tell him, no. ‘‘I can’t take men no more. I can make my own living.’’ Should be you’re on your own. Nobody can boss you around then. You do what you want. My grandchild can look after me. Before, I wanted a husband , wanted kids. I lost six of those kids – – six of mine. After I’m past that, though, I don’t want to be bothered with men. One Dakl’aweidı́3 man used to bring me meat and fish after Billy died – – we raised him when he’s a kid. One time I asked him to stay with me, but he said no. ‘‘Too much it’s like you’re my mother.’’ When Billy died, he told me, ‘‘I’m going to come back. If I’m still around after I die, I’m going to come back. I’ll knock at the window so my grandchild can let me in.’’ One time we were sitting here: we heard three knocks at door – – but that time it was just a dog. I dreamed about it, though. I talked with Susie [Fred], too. She says, ‘‘Your old man can’t come back that way. He’s going to turn into baby. He’s going to be nedlin.’’4 I know it’s true. I miss all my sisters-in-law:5 Mrs. Whitehorse Billy . . . Mrs. Charlie Burns . . . Jessie Burns . . . Jessie Walker . . . Jenny McKenzie . . . Jenny Laberge . . . Kitty Walker . . . Susie Sam . . . Might be I’m going to catch them yet. I don’t know which way they’re gone. All Wolf ladies I talk about – – I don’t know which way they’re gone. I sure loved them all, used to be. Best friend of mine, Jessie Walker, used to be. All Wolf women, all. They don’t think about me anymore, when they’re gone. I made song for them [she sings and...


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