Goodbye Buffalo Bay
Many schools are using Larry Loyie’s Goodbye Buffalo Bay for novel / chapter book study. Chapter 1 (below) give you a chance to preview this great book. Larry is a survivor of the residential school system and writes from experience and from the heart. Excellent reviews of this book are also on this website, www.firstnationswriter.com. The book is available from Theytus (www.theytus.com) at $14.95 Cdn/USD. The new 4th edition includes captioned photos from Larry Loyie’s school years. The book also includes an Epilogue and A Brief History of Residential Schools for classroom use. Study questions are also included on this website. Larry appreciates any comments you may have.
Goodbye Buffalo Bay
By Larry Loyie
with Constance Brissenden
Goodbye Buffalo Bay is based on the true story of Larry Loyie’s childhood, his last year in residential school and moving on. All the events in the book really did happen.
PART 1 — ON BUFFALO BAY
Chapter 1 Cowboys and Indians
Lawrence sat on the board sidewalk watching the little boys play cowboys and Indians.
Yelling and screaming, they ran up and down the homemade wooden slide. Beneath the slide, Johnny-Johnny hid, clutching his wood chip pistol in his hand. It was the best place in the Boys Yard to find cover from his mortal enemy, Walter the Cowboy. The yard was bare, except for the slide and one power pole. The only grass that grew straggled along the inside of the fence that enclosed the yard.
Now that he was 13 and a big boy at St. Bernard Mission residential school, Lawrence didn’t play in the yard much. He was too busy with the other big boys like Sniffer, John, Joseph and Isaac working in the ice house or piling wood for the furnace.
When he first came to the school as a little boy of nine years old, Lawrence played on some awkward swings in the yard with wooden poles instead of rope. He tried to swing but he needed someone to push him. When the swings were torn down, they were never replaced. None of the boys missed them.
Lawrence felt the fall wind blowing. The chill in the air said that summer was coming to an end. He looked down toward Buffalo Bay and Big Prairie. The marsh grass was lush and high. Flocks of geese circled round and down into the rippling water of the huge bay. Kokom Bella would be hunting now for her evening meal and he wanted to be with her. The leaves were starting to turn yellow and red. Kokum especially loved the red leaves.
Johnny-Johnny ran out from beneath the slide and darted behind Lawrence. He spotted Walter the Cowboy hiding behind the power pole. Fast and furious, Johnny-Johnny yelled, “Bang, bang, bang.”
Walter raced toward him, pointing his finger. “Bang, you’re dead,” he shouted in victory. For once he was sure he had shot an Indian dead.
Swiftly, Johnny-Johnny ducked behind Lawrence. “No, I’m not,” he hollered back at Walter. “You can’t hit me. I’m hiding behind a big rock.”
Lawrence didn’t even turn his head. “Is that all I am now, a big rock?” he thought. The funny thing was he didn’t feel big at all.
Lawrence spotted Sniffer coming out of the Boys Hall. “Hey Sniffer, come and get The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I’m done with it,” he called. He held up a worn copy of a Classic comic book. Sniffer walked over and sat beside Lawrence on the sidewalk. “What’cha doing?” Sniffer asked. He took a long sniff, first from the left side of his nose, then the right side. For good measure, he followed up by sniffing through both sides.
Lawrence spoke softly, even though there was nobody around to hear what he had to say. “I went to the Fathers and Brothers reading room just now. Boy, did I ever get the scare of my life.”
Sniffer stopped sniffing. “What happened?” he asked eagerly.
“You know how dark and smelly that room is, with those stinky French cigarettes the priests like to smoke? I was cleaning up for them. I put some newspapers on the table and saw a picture of the lightweight champions of the world. You know, Sandy Saddler and Willie Pep. I was trying to read what it said but it was in French.”
He stopped and shuddered. “What happened next?” Sniffer encouraged him.
“All of a sudden, someone was behind me. It was the priest who’s not allowed to say Mass because he shakes too much. The one Brother Leblanc helps walk to the dining room to eat. I looked up at him and almost screamed. He was a giant with bulging eyes and a hunchback. He was drooling on the front of his dirty cape. He reached out to grab me. He looked just like the hunchback of Notre Dame, like the comic book picture with the black cape over his shoulders. The Fathers wear the same kind of cape, so maybe they’re related.”
“You got to tell the other guys,” said Sniffer. “How’d you get away?”
“I ran out of there so fast.” Lawrence was silent for a moment. “The funny thing is, when I got outside I felt sorry for him. I heard Brother Leblanc say he was pretty sick. He can’t even speak no more. Maybe he just needed help to sit down.” Lawrence shrugged and stood up. He handed Sniffer the Classic Comic. “Who’s reading the comic after you? I’d like to read it again.”
“It’s Isaac’s turn after me,” said Sniffer. “It takes him a while ‘cause he still don’t know too much English.”
High above them Sister Denise peered out the window of the Boys Hall. Her black wimple framed her small face. “Lawrence, go haul some wood into the boiler room,” she shouted. “I’ll send someone to help.” For such a small person, Lawrence thought, her voice was loud enough to be heard in the big field at the back of the Boys Yard.
Without another word to Sniffer, Lawrence started running. “Yes, Sister,” he yelled as soon as he took off. Moments later he was outside the boiler room. None of the Sisters were in sight. When he saw Barney Bottle, the wood hauler, he felt better. He knew he would have a nice talk with Barney.
“Can I pet your horses?” Like always, it was the first thing Lawrence asked.
Barney smiled a big smile. “Sure, my friend. Just hurry up so you don’t get into trouble.”
“I’m sure glad it’s you today,” Lawrence admitted. “That other guy who comes over here, the Frenchman, he’s bossy and makes me do all the work.”
The two horses stood patiently outside the boiler room. They tossed their heads when Lawrence came near. He stroked their foreheads, feeling the coarse hair. Then he began to carry the wood into the boiler room.
Barney finished unloading the wagon outside. He took off his work gloves and watched Lawrence work.
Lawrence heard John’s ‘ha ha ha’ before he saw him. John was the biggest boy in the school, taller and lankier than Lawrence. He was always laughing whether something was funny or not.
“Hello Barney,” John greeted him. “I just finished delivering ice. I was on my way for a drink of water when Sister told me to come and help Lawrence.”
The two boys worked quickly together. One by one, they carried the wood from the pile by the wagon. Soon they were finished.
Barney looked at his watch. “That was fast work. I just have time to unhitch and water the team and I’m done for the day.”
He took a brown paper bag from his shirt pocket.
“Take these. You worked hard today,” he said to Lawrence. “You guys can share them with your friends.”
Surprised, Lawrence stared at the gift.
“Christmas candies,” Barney said. Father Superior gave them to me. He was supposed to hand them out to the children at Christmas but he forgot. He had lots left and they were sticking together so he gave me some.” He put the bag in Lawrence’s hand, then jumped on his wagon and drove away to the barn.
Lawrence ran to the ice house to hide his gift.
[End Ch 1, Goodbye Buffalo Bay by Larry Loyie. Copyright 2012 Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden]