[This story is an improved version from mini cassette recordings of Mekkar’s actual voice in 1990 while hiking and walking as a University student; then, it was converted to a Windows Media Audio File and transcribed in 2011. Mekkar’s spoken English skills are nowhere near as polished as Saavo’s are. Continued from PART 1 (C) in November, 2014.]
The arctic boy overheard several of the trek leaders agree among themselves regarding where the tribe currently was and the course they wished to continue on. Juhani, Ansetti, Antti, and many of the others such as Aslak all had their individual input in the discussion. Aslak later revealed some details of the conversation to Mekkar as a small part of their interaction together. Yet, the youngster did not fully grasp the full meaning behind much of the spiritual leader’s explanations to him. Mekkar was experiencing an overload of details, information, and ideas as many of the concepts were new to the boy. However, Aslak sensed this and stopped briefly to let a portion set in. He was wise to proceed on in a slower fashion and reconfigure the important points of his message to Mekkar. Still, the hope was some of the shared knowledge would sink in to expand the boy’s brainpower. Long term retention would be a bonus.
Remember, there has always been a connection of the boy with the shaman. One part of Mekkar’s name comes from the wizard who helped deliver him from his mother’s womb. During that time, Aslak played the role of a delivery doctor. Also, both of them are also related by blood within the tribe itself. Since, Aslak is an extended family member, so he had a stake in Mekkar’s fate from the very start. It is well to note, that a high percentage of children usually do not initially survive when faced with such an early birth as Mekkar. If the newborn surprisingly endures, life expectancy is normally very short. Other mitigating circumstances of the event included an outdoor arctic setting and a sizeable trip to the hospital. The odds were stacked against the Arctic Warrior. Some have a suspicion that otherworldly forces protected the newborn. Only one person truly knew the exact sources involved regarding the preservation of Mekkar’s life during that dramatic time, but he was very mum with any specifics.
Aslak took time out and gave his best efforts to teach Mekkar many things and insights. This trek provided many opportunities and sources for the boy to accelerate his learning curve. Mekkar’s comprehension abilities to intake and process information were also high for individuals his age. Nevertheless, the medicine man also realized there are limits with regard to the mind capacity of a child. There was a risk of too much mental strain upon Mekkar could damage the boy. Outright frustration was potentially high and a possibility as a result. Aslak knew Mekkar got frustrated easily and this deficiency is still evident in Mekkar to this day. Alf would say it has increased in proportionate level to obstacles his older brother has encountered. Mekkar now even quips at times, “Life can be a frustrating experience when an individual has a genius level high IQ as compared to most people.” It has never been explained if Mekkar was referring to himself or not. Many assumed that Mekkar was expressing his own belief regarding himself.
Due to his impatience, he wanted answers to his questions like any child his age does, in order develop themselves mentally and plot their way in life. If Mekkar didn’t get satisfactory feedback, he would seek out another source. Even more so, the native from the north was extremely diligent than most kids his age. Some would say he was like a pest at times.
Anyway, the trek was constantly moving with time. No one was keeping track and in Mekkar’s it seemed to pass by quickly. Later, after a long discussion with Ansetti, Aslak pointed out to Mekkar that this trek was coming to a conclusion real soon. The group had travelled many miles (kilometers) and they were pointed in the direction of home. The reindeer had their needs met and got exercise as well by this movement. When they get home the tribe can fatten the animals up again for the next season’s activities. The whole purpose of the trek is so the animal’s food supply in one place, their home area, was not all used up. This is a key factor because the ground regenerates new supplies so slowly due to the harsh climate. Mekkar learned this concept from the adults and would later refer to it by his own terminology. That is, a part of the cycle of environments much like three-tier faming and rotation of crops, etc. Sirga noticed that her oldest son, Mekkar, developed a habit of creating his words and phrases. Since he was also learning other languages during this period, she thought it was part of his process and didn’t see it as irregular. The habit is still in force to this day.
During this time of year, it was more common for this particular trekking path to have a steady stream of tribes passing by. However, Mekkar’s tribe was the only wandering group within sight distance of the closest village. The folks living here didn’t seem as uptight to him as some inhabitants of other districts the herders encountered earlier on this journey. Probably because Mekkar saw an increase in the number of helicopters and jet aircraft flying overhead. Some of them he could identify and others he was unfamiliar with. Mekkar thought for a time that his sense of direction was off kilter as he felt they were not in the right area and still further to the east. Yet, Mekkar was a boy on his first long trek away from home without either of his parents, so what did he know? He was attempting to match the flyers in the sky to where he saw them before. Too bad, the anxiety returned and confused the youngster regarding any sense of direction. In his mind, Mekkar tried to match his assumptions with the flight location origins of these flying machines, but he failed miserably. Mekkar inquired a couple of the adults to clarify where the group’s whereabouts. Aslak took Mekkar aside and showed him a couple of methods of how to determine where they were. The lesson included instruction of how to draw a bearing on the metal birds in the skies in relation to the sun. Aslak commented to the young herder, “Those aircraft only fly when the weather is good, so they can see where they are going.” The shaman even let Mekkar don his special cap for a short time. The boy thought it was so cool and liked it much better than his own hat despite the obvious well-worn material of Aslak’s headpiece. Mekkar saw it as a privilege. He next expected some special powers to overtake him while he covered his head with the spiritual leader’s cap. Unfortunately, he was disappointed as the expected surge never occurred.
Sometimes during stopovers along the trek, the spiritual leader of the tribe would sometimes play games with Mekkar. Other times, teach him through various means to keep him from getting bored and also develop his mental faculties. Mekkar figured out that Aslak was the person he could learn quickest from, so he spent more time with the seer than anyone else during the trip.
It felt strange to Mekkar as the moving objects in the sky seemed to fly at lower and lower altitudes. Despite the planes flying closer to the ground, the people appeared to continue on with their daily lives and ignored them. Maybe they couldn’t do anything about the aircraft anyway so why worry it as it will pass eventually. The youngster gathered some of a conversation when he was with Ansetti as the trek chief spoke to one of the locals about the activity overhead. Mekkar asked if the air forces were friendly or enemy. He received no response. It appeared as though the inhabitants were, in a way, sort of immune or desensitized to the planned patterns above them. Mekkar was told that there was only one way a response would be undertaken or local attitude changed. In other words, if the aircraft went on the attack, the inhabitants would counter attack in kind.
Normally the native population in this region of the world are very much, unlike some other people around the globe, a fairly peace loving people. It is quite a contrast to the frequent warlike mentality that encompasses various regions of the planet. The inhabitants here usually just go about minding their own business. They don’t want to be bothered, but to live in freedom. Furthermore, to be left alone to conduct their daily affairs as daily life in the arctic is hard enough. However, anyone is able go into defense mode, if prepared and when they feel threatened by another. Ansetti and the other adult spoke about all the concerns Mekkar had regarding the situation. There was also much more information the boy listened to but didn’t anticipate or understand. The man and Ansetti said his piece and the speech went back and forth. Though, Mekkar could gather only some the meaning because the conversation between the two was not in his native dialect.
Mekkar was also present during interactions involving Ansetti and other locals. It seemed the primary purpose was gathering of intelligence. The trouble was Mekkar could understand only bit and pieces of what was being said or none at all. The child definitely didn’t gather the gist of the wording of what he could interpret either. He thought to himself those people and we are dressed in comparable ways but not identical due to region and the speech ... Internally, he pondered other ideas such as who are these people? They sort of look like me and kind of sound like me. The people here also carry out functions that we do, but they are not exactly like me. I have encountered this before on this trek. He summed it up with, they are odd in comparison.
With the tools Aslak demonstrated to him, the native runt figured out fairly well regarding where he was now in regard to the herd’s location and home. Deceptively, he continued to convey an exterior image of being lost. No matter what he told himself, Mekkar was still worried by the persistent military flurry around him. The boy needed clarification to calm his internal turmoil and sought out the medicine man. Aslak mentioned that this is a regular occurrence because the area is much nearer to a fairly unfriendly national border than Mekkar’s village. Although there are more direct line to reach that national dividing line, if one wanted to. It was pointed out to the youngster why the locals appeared unfazed as they must be used to this activity and therefore see this movement all of the time.
These activities remind some older citizens in the area about unforgotten events of how different forces during World War II invaded the region and damaged it severely. Battles raged and explosions were heard right outside their front doors in some cases. Many historical records don’t reveal many of the horrors and details involved. Added to the fact, natives are not the only inhabitants that live here, there a few different nationalities. Thus, the number of languages spoken here has not been homogeneous for quite awhile. Not to forget how the indigenous population was employed like slaves by the invaders. A number of those families and individuals were killed in the skirmishes and wars that went on into nineteen forty five and beyond. Even one of Mekkar’s own grandmama’s was murdered after she poisoned the occupying forces food supply. It was her small contribution to the area defense effort while performing duties as a cook. Territorial disputes and battles between various armed units have occurred in this area for centuries. There have been at least thirty of these unfortunate encounters between rival forces within the last few hundred years. The goal is plentiful, untapped natural resources if one desires to put in some effort to exact them.
There are a number of countries’ in the last few centuries where people can relate to this predicament. Many times assorted forces and personnel went back and forth claiming territory for the glory of their national leaders. But, at the same time, with no side being triumphant and having a decisive victory. Yet, the common folk were the real losers through the sacrifice of family members lives, property, homes, livelihoods, etc. These battles also ensued in multiple locations at the same time and on different fronts within the region. Regrettably, the historical lessons are still being neglected to this day with similarly potential ramifications. Applicable in this situation is the conventional wisdom that says those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. [Reason in Common Sense, volume 1 of The Life of Reason by George Santayana, 1905]
Miscommunication, deception, and outright cruelty were the rule of the day to coincide with political and military aims. It didn’t matter if there were blatant lies as long as the particular agenda were successfully executed. Some of false information that was spewed out at the time has now come to light. Very different outcomes could have been attained but the original course was pretty much set and the real goals were predetermined. Governments and populations then put their trust in agreements that were basically unenforceable and easily broken. One enemy came to overrun the area near the border with the premise to supposedly create a buffer for one of their large cities. That was the official line anyway. The truth was that they felt their bullying strategy against those smaller than them would add wealth to the national coffers; for a small cost to increase their domain. Surprisingly, the closest and largest foreign power got what they wanted, but the price was extremely high and probably not worth it.
Unexpectedly, the nasty winter weather along with the rugged terrain played a huge role in the favor of the outnumbered defenders. Fierce local fighting to save their homes and land as well logistical nightmares on the part of the attackers punished the overwhelming invading military. At certain points, the aggressors were stopped cold and ended up retreating. In the end, the dogged resistance was hindered by exhaustion and lack of ammunition on the part of the underdogs. Otherwise, the eventual outcome might have been quite the opposite. In pure numbers on the battlefield the encroaching forces lost big time. However, the underdogs eventually had to surrender. The leadership of the local forces made some mistakes such as awaiting other foreign powers to come help them. Lamentably, those promises were broken often and the relief never arrived. In hindsight, conflict is a dangerous proposition and predicting the future is hard to forecast. Could the whole damaging incident have been avoided? The final peace terms at the end were harsh and wounded the little populated area deeply. It took a long time for a full recovery to be achieved somewhat close to pre-great war levels. On top of that, recognition of local bravery and heroics from that period couldn’t be honored until much later. That is, when memories have faded and after the political landscape drastically changed
The powerful neighbor expected it all to be completed and dealt with in a couple of weeks due to having an overwhelming superiority in weapons, soldiers, and supplies. A combination of things helped the regional inhabitants hold much of their territory, unlike some other places. The hindrances included miscommunication and lack of coordination on the part of the invaders. All of these factors together nullified some attacks in their tracks and kept others from deep advancement and total domination of the surrounding countryside. This happened despite the overpowering numbers on the enemy side and the unfulfilled promises of help by quite a few other nations, except for one. Even then, their help arrive with extremely small numbers and many conditions attached. The isolation was repeated in a similar manner of numerous past conflicts. So, it stands to reason why the people in this area have a very guarded attitude and initial lack trust regarding most strangers and their promises. The general feeling is most people from the outside have let them down time and time again. So, why believe them now? Could anyone blame the local residents for their cautious demeanor?
Mekkar had learned a small part of the regional history by listening in at the campfire stories. Accounts told by those who were involved while helping the beleaguered and outnumbered, but game defenders. Antti described seeing and fighting alongside local troops for their homeland and virtual existence. The all white winter uniforms made sure they blended in with the scenery. He spoke about the freezing conditions and not having the correct full seasonal military attire. The individual troops on their side always carried their own portable shelter with them. Also, they were highly mobile on skis that afforded them great maneuverability advantages. Due to the considerable losses, the enemy learned some valuable lessons and later applied similar tactics, which led to victories in other combat theaters.
As the herd ventured toward the national boundary, Ansetti said it was common to see soldiers in this area. He also brought up the point regarding a training area that was located not far away. Ansetti identified, with Mekkar at rapt attention, the soldiers in the all-white clothing as Rangers or Special Forces. He described their provisions and supplies present on each person along with the required advanced tactical training. By the way, skis and sport skiing were invented by the indigenous people in the arctic. Tribes related to Mekkar. Those troops lugged packs and prepared for almost anything they might encounter. Units might be distinguished from the enemy through the use of traditional or formal greetings. Ansetti knew soldiers and said some of the leaders of this trek performed similar duties. Kin that Mekkar looked up to had served in various past military capacities. Mekkar observed that Ansetti seemed to be very friendly with everyone he interacted with in this place. It was, as if, the trek leader had been here many times before. The response to exchanges with Ansetti was positive because many appeared to know him. Later that day, Mekkar was made aware regarding all of this while relaxing in the teepee. He enjoyed the slow paced atmosphere and continued to discover many adventures his fellow herders experienced long ago.