As a musician, you put yourself out there in the public and you have to be ready to appease your fans. That means answering questions after the show. The most common question I get is, “How long have you been playing?” Well, I’m here to tell you, I don’t know. It seems music has always been a part of me. Growing up in Inuvik, everybody played music. When I was 12 years old, I was singing about prison and booze and loose women. I had no idea what the hell I was singing about, we just sung ‘em cause that’s what we heard. Anyway, let me tell you how I got into this mess.
I was eight years old and walking home from playing baseball one hot August night. I heard a knock at a window from the Old Folks Home across the road. It was an old Anaatquuq, (an Inuvialuit shaman) named Rufus who was blind as a bat. How the hell he ever knew I was walking past, I’ll never know. His dark sunken eyeballs and shock of wild, white hair freaked the living Jesus right out of me.
As wigged out as I was, I froze in my runners at such a sight. He motioned with his hands for me to come in and pointed to the side door. I didn’t know whether to blow bubbles or do a tap dance to tell you the truth, but I walked to the side door anyway. I was standing there, wondering whether or not to knock when he pushed the door open and was standing there like Chucky. I let out a weak scream and dog-gone near fainted. I wanted to make a mad dash out of there, but something drew me to him as he led me down the narrow hallway, running his hands along the walls for guidance.
He sat down and started talking to me in Inuvialuktun. I had no idea what he was talking about, but was comfortable with it cause my dad used to talk Inuvialuktun all the time. At that time, I was playing around with my brother Gerry’s little Stella Acoustic guitar. He used to keep it in a gunny sack and drive his dog-team to all his girlfriends in the Mackenzie Delta and sing old cowboy songs. I used to sneak it down when he wasn’t home and pretend to play it. I really liked CCR and would pretend to sing Lodi. “Left a good job in the city. Working for the man every night and day.” I had no idea how to play it, but I sure tried. But back to the Old Rufus.
He was asking me something, but I didn’t understand him. He repeated himself a few times, but I still didn’t get it. All I knew was a few swear words and a couple of body parts. Then he made a motion like he was playing guitar.
“Guitar? You want a guitar?” He shook his head “no” and pointed at me and made the guitar-playing motion again.
“Do I play guitar?” “Eee. Eee,” he replied.
“Yeah I do, I mean, I want to play guitar.”
Then he grabbed my hands and starting chanting some old song in Inuvialuktun. I tried to pull my hands away, but his grip got tighter and tighter. Then he stood up and got louder and louder. “Ah yah yah. Ah yah yah yah.” I got so blasted scared I started to cry, but no tears came out or no sound came out of my mouth. I just stood there terrified at the sight of that old man with milky white eyes and a big black hole where his teeth used to be. His bony, cold hands gripped mine until they started to hurt. He threw his head back and went into a deep trance.
“AH YAH YAH.”
When I felt his grip loosen, I yanked my hands free and bolted out the door. I ran up the road looking back every few seconds to make sure he wasn’t chasing me. Instead he was watching me through the window and laughing like Jack Nicholson. I ran into my house and was hiding under the bed when my sister asked me what I was doing. I told her Old Rufus was chasing me and he was gonna eat me. She busted out laughing and said, “As if.” After I quit shaking, I peeked out the window to see if he was outside.
Then, I don’t know why, but I took my brother’s Stella guitar out of the gunny sack. He had a piece of twine for a strap and I hung it over my shoulder like a rock star and made a guitar chord, something I’d never done before. Then I played the guitar intro to the CCR song, Lodi; Da da da dum, da da da dum, da da da dum dum dum dum. I’d always pretended I knew it, but now I was actually playing all the right chords. Then I jumped on my brother’s bed and starting singing it, word for word. It was like something possessed me and was singing and playing guitar instead of me. It was 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 18, 1969, the exact moment CCR was taking the stage at Woodstock. The reason I know is because it was my cousin Ebun’s birthday the next day and he wouldn’t let me come into his party cause I didn’t bring him a present. Anyway, nobody was there to witness what happened to me. Some people say my imagination is too wild and that I’m just telling tall tales. But you believe me. Don’t you?