Summer of the “Yamo”

I recently heard a few pointers on how to avoid memory loss. Step #1 was to challenge your memories and be very thankful for them! So with that, I started thinking back of my earlier days! The thing of it all though, is that as you recall and remember, it brings Thanksgiving and Gratitude to your spirit, especially in this Thanksgiving season, and it refreshes thankfulness in our hearts! Gratitude and thankfulness carry power and healing in our lives! So after I brought all this story back to memory, I am thankful for those days with my wife, my parents, and my family! And with this we know that Jesus loves us very much.

July 1955… A little memory for me…
Living in Winnipeg 61 years ago, we were newly married (just 6 months) and I wanted to impress my new bride! So I drove her, and my Mom & Dad (Dad was of Metis descent) to Lido Plage Beach, Manitoba. Here was going to be a great Metis Fiddling Contest! This was a summer Saturday in July. My intention I guess was to also introduce my new bride who was of Ukrainian heritage from up north, to a traditional Metis Red River Fiddling Contest!!

Before the actual fiddling contest began (and as I remember, these were the All-Star Fiddler Contestants on the list – including Breland of St. Vital, the LaFreniere Fiddlers of St. Ambrose and Mr. Gendron, among other contestants), they had pre-show entertainment of Jiggers – the jiggers would take turns jigging on the platform! Now, for this jigging pre-show, the star fiddler playing for them was Andy Desjarlais, a cousin, who was a retired former champion of the contests. He is still on YouTube!

But back to the pre-show entertainment by the jiggers. While Andy started playing the Red River Jig, the Metis jiggers got on the platform and started their jigging, taking turns. We were sitting in the crowd watching and enjoying. I must say, those jiggers were good!!
Well, a young man started jigging, and suddenly started to jump faster and higher than usual!!! He was swinging his arms around his head like a helicopter!! The fiddler Andy who was playing the Red River Jig full speed, suddenly could not keep up with this jigger! Then all of a sudden, the jigger jigged his way right off the platform, flew by around the crowd, and somebody in the crowd shouted “IT’S A YAAAAMO!!!!” The dreaded “Yamo” to the Metis crowd is the Cree word for a Bumblebee, who had to be avoided as it was very scary to Metis kids! There was a rumbling in the crowd – “We lost the jigger!!!” Well, the last we saw of him, he was running, jumping, arms swinging, and disappeared into the twilight!!

Well, the fiddler Andy, being polite, kept right on fiddling, and the other jiggers took their turns, but the rumbling in the crowd grew. Shouts of “It’s a Yamo that got him!” could be heard.

Now all along, my wife was sitting next to me, observing all this commotion. This was my new bride’s first impression of a Metis Fiddling contest (and the actual fiddling contest had not even started yet – this was the pre-show!). Well, the good thing is my wife had a good sense of humor and boy did she laugh!!! She was so impressed with the fiddle contest after too!! We all enjoyed it!

Eventually, the poor jigger did come back to the stage, full of dust, weeds, and leaves, shaking them off his nice jigging outfit! He carried right on!! After the pre-show entertainment ended, the main attraction of the fiddling contest then began. As I can recall, Breland was the Fiddling Champion!! He came on, quietly sat on a chair with a safari-type hat, with the strap under his chin! He was only in his early 20’s. He fiddled his way to take first prize, amongst many good contestants!

But believe me, we all kept our eyes open for the dreaded “YAMO”!!! After that, we all went home after a fun day!

God bless you all, being thankful for good memories, and Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
P.S. Feel free to share!


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