LOTTO 6/49
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A father's love can be harsh but it can also be the most gentle and caring affection between a child and a father - creating a bond that can never be broken. These tender bonds forever ingrain themselves into a father's heart and bring strength and pride from every accomplishment his child attains. In times of crisis, a father's love will move mountains or unknowingly endure intense pain to save his child.

So it was with George and his son.

When I met George, he was driving a backhoe but his voice was barely a scratchy whisper, his fingers were misshapen into weird angles, his walk belied an old injury and his eyes when not diverted, reflected a hidden sorrow.

I never knew George's real name for the repressive Federal Government refused to allow the First Nations to use their Indian names. They therefore kept their true identity secret from all white men and adopted approved Christian names.

George had fallen madly in love with his young wife during his teens when emotions are intense and forever lasting. She was a quiet considerate girl with soft brown eyes that bespoke of a deep caring far beyond her years.

They longed for a child but nature can be cruel to those who want children the most. Several years passed, when the young girl now a mature elegant lady, finally bore a young son. He inherited his father's strength and his mother's sensitive dark eyes.

George's parents were ecstatic. They showered the grandchild with the same love they had bestowed upon George; making their house a second home to the young grandson. Their love was reciprocated for the grandchild sought every opportunity to visit.

The Yukon has a cold evil heart. Her ancient mountains were once young, vigorous volcanoes but are now carrions of their former selves. Her lakes are fed by pure clear glaciers but their bowels are sinister cold tombs that forever encase drowned bodies.

Lake Bennett, the mighty headwaters of the famed Yukon River, mirrors the Yukon. The Lake steeps to immense black depths while its surface flies in tatters to the violent western winds that punch their way through the mountain passes.

Lake Bennett has a peculiarity - its gloomy bottom is warmed occasionally by the stirrings of the struggling extinct volcanoes. As if a poison was infesting its stomach, the Lake vomits these arsenic warmer waters into a small fast flowing river, the Natasaheeni, commonly called the Nares River by the whites.

Very quickly, this River then disgorges into a chain of lakes that form the largest and most hazardous bodies of water in the Yukon.

Earlier white settlements had forced the First Nation's people into a reserve on one side of the Natasaheeni while they prospered on the other. However, the lust in life and the scarcity of women lead to many mixed marriages and the eventual social integration by the white settlement.

The Natasaheeni presented a problem. Travel across the River in the summer was by boat but in the winter, both sides had to wait until the severe frigid weather solidified the ice into clear blue crystal strong enough to withstand passage. Once frozen, you could peer with delight through this glacial ice and watch the grayling chase the fresh water herring.

George and his family lived on the white settlement side near the school and the old general store while his mom and dad still lived in the reservation, unwilling to leave their close elderly friends.

It was George's custom to bring his parents their weekly groceries on Friday afternoons by sled across the ice with his son giggling and laughing atop the supplies. They would stop and admire the going-ons of all the fish and pretend to catch the larger ones that lurked close to the bottom.

This Friday afternoon was beautiful - the sun, low in the winter horizon, had peeked over the mountains temporarily dazzling the waters below the ice with glimmering rays that sparkled upon the scales of the fish.

They happily stayed for supper that day for his mom had cooked his favorite caribou meal and prepared his son's eagerly anticipated wild mossberry dessert.

The winter sun sets quickly in the early afternoons, bringing a face numbing chill to the twilight air. As if on cue, the westerly winds pick up and renew their relentless drive against the opposing mountains; howling down the waterway corridors in defeat.

George bundled up his son, finding it difficult to tear him away from his loving grandmother, but he knew that his wife was waiting for them at home.

With the winds biting at his face, he left the wooden sled beside the door and snuggled his young son close to his chest.

The grizzly snow covered mountains had stirred that afternoon too - in their periodic effort to regain their fiery glory. It was shortlived but sufficient to arouse the fury of Lake Bennett which spewed these warmer waters into the Natasheeni.

It was onto the ice at this time that George stepped, his fur covered head bowed against the wind to protect his son. He had reached the middle of the River before he realized that the ice had changed. The usual cracks had expanded but the thickness was obscured - the blackness below prevented any perception.

Too late!

They plunged through the ice, the water's now bitter cold shocking every sense. Perhaps, in his constant grieving thoughts, pulling his son on the sled with the dispersion of the lighter weight might have changed the circumstances.

In an instinctual effort, George threw his arm out to catch the solid ice's edge.

Released from its icy prison, the River was free. Like a wild animal released from its cage, it crashed the broken ice shards against George's back and leg, cutting deeply into his thigh, and shoulder of the arm holding his son; throwing him up upon the solid ice. There was no feeling. He looked down, his arms were empty.

Desperately his eyes searched and quickly found his son. There was something wrong. An icy haze was separating them and he couldn't hear his son; only see his child's frightened wild eyes - those of his loved one - trusting for help with his small open arms struggling to grab his father.

Realization sickened him and a terrible vengeance arose within. He smashed the ice with both fists. Harder and harder he pounded, oblivious to the shattering of his hands. He screamed for help.

The defeated winds knew a easy victim and scattered his troubled cries.

His son slipped further - the tiny mittens now lost - little fingers closed against the ice. Then he was gone.

--All Names Changed..True Stories From the Yukon by Gerald Tooley

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