Moose Jaw!

Growing up I spent a lot of time with my late grandma who would often call me over to help her out with some of her work around her home. One afternoon she asked me to help her take a moose head apart. She had wanted to get to the marrow in the moose jaw. The marrow in the moose jaw is considered a delicacy but it requires some effort to get it out. I settled in by the fire inside her teepee as she cut away on the tendons and muscles of the jawbone.

She enjoyed telling me stories in the language while she worked. They were usually about her childhood which was quite different from my own.

Her story that day was of her dad, my great grandfather, who once had left his snowshoes miles from home while out checking his traps. He got home late in the afternoon and asked my grandmother to fetch the snowshoes.

“It got dark early that day,” she said, “Back then we didn’t have snowmobiles or flashlights. Once it got dark, it was dark.”

As she worked she would use her sleeve to wipe the sweat off her brow and she would occasionally sharpen her knife on a rock beside her. “Your great grandpa had a dog team that he used to hunt and check traps with but the dogs only responded to his commands,” she told me.

“I had to walk many miles in the moonlight to get to the snowshoes, it was cold but the effort of walking kept me warm,” said Grandma.

I listened to her with wonder as she told me of the wolves she heard in the distance during her walk.

“They didn’t scare me,” she said, “Wolves didn’t come near people even if they were in a pack.”

Kokoom took a pause in her story to let me know she was ready to pull the jaw apart. “Let’s see who gets thrown over,” she said with a smile.

I took the bottom jaw with both hands as she grabbed the top. “Are you ready?” she asked.

With a nod I pulled as hard as I could but I was no match for my granny. She pulled me right over quite easily. Of course the jaws didn’t come apart; both pieces were still firmly attached. With a laugh she picked up her knife again and continued cutting at the jaw.

“Hey, why are you letting an old lady throw you around?” she asked teasingly. I just smiled at her and shrugged.

She went on with her story after another laugh.

“I knew exactly where I was going,” said Grandma, “My father had told me how many lakes I had to cross and what the land would look like and of course his trail was quite visible in the moonlit night.”

“When I got home later that night, my father asked me about what I saw and heard that night.”

“He would nod knowingly as I described the lakes I went over and the lay of the land as I got closer,” she said “His snowshoes were exactly where he said they would be.”

As I sat there I began wondering if I could do something like that. Would I find my way there and back? Am I brave enough to walk out in the bush by myself in the dark?

We eventually took that moose jaw apart and got the marrow out, my reward being a good sized piece of it. It didn’t take me long to eat it.

That one visit with my Grandma taught me several things, the first being hands on experience in the art of bone marrow retrieval, second I got some insight on how difficult things were during my grandma’s childhood compared to my upbringing, third my granny was one tough lady. There are of course endless lessons one could gain from such an activity but at the time I was probably waiting to get out of there so I could catch the latest antics of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant on television.