Pine Bugs and 303's

By Ernie T Louttit

Pine Bugs and 303's
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Pine Bugs and . 303s is the story of two families in Northwestern Ontario. Elmer Wabason, a Cree man and Gilbert Bertrand, a white man grew up three miles apart. Until World War II they had never met. The town and the reserve are separated by the newly named Trans-Canada Highway. ... Read more


Pine Bugs and . 303s is the story of two families in Northwestern Ontario. Elmer Wabason, a Cree man and Gilbert Bertrand, a white man grew up three miles apart. Until World War II they had never met. The town and the reserve are separated by the newly named Trans-Canada Highway. A fast-paced story uncovering the bond of soldiers, the strength of women, the impact of racism and resilience. The families endure disaster, deceit and corruption. They achieve many firsts even though the odds seem stacked against them at almost every turn. The search for justice takes them to a pivotal trial in 1965.

Ernie T Louttit

Ernie Louttit is a retired soldier and police officer, and has written three books, Indian Ernie: Perspectives on Leadership and Policing, More Indian Ernie, Insights from the Streets, and The Unexpected Cop: Indian Ernie on a Life of Leadership. Winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award in 2014 and the Reveal Indigenous Arts Award in 2017. Pine Bugs and .303's is his debut novel. He lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.


Chapter 1

The rear echelon officer from Gil's regiment had telephoned Frances two days ago. Frances answered the phone and listened with her hands trembling as the officer told her Gil's train would be in Fort William in two days, but he did not know the exact time. Their hometown of Lac Ville had received individual phones in late 1944 when it seemed the war would end in an Allied victory. Frances had spent two weeks of Gil's pay to have it installed. When she hung up the phone, she immediately began planning his homecoming. She grabbed a sheet of paper and began to write all his favorite things down. After a moment she crumpled the paper. It had been four years. She had no idea what his favorite things were anymore. Gil was a good man but not much of a letter writer. He wrote a letter every two weeks. Frances received a total of 212 letters in four years. It seemed like a lot but most of the letters were at best a page long. They always ended the same way: I hope you are well. I am alright. We are winning. I will be home soon. My love to you always.


There was no detail, no insight, and no way to read what was happening to her beloved Gil. Frances knew more about the Indians in Gil's regiment than any of the other soldiers. She found this curious, like it was okay to write about when they were killed or wounded but not about other members who suffered the same fate. Gil and Frances had married after high school and had fallen in love awkwardly because Gil was a man of few words. When she first set eyes on him, she had swooned. He was a tall, dark, heavily muscled young man with sparkling dark eyes. He was known around Lac Ville as a hardworking man with a bright future. When he smiled at Frances in their senior year of high school, Frances knew she would be his wife.

What had intrigued Frances the most was Gil couldn't care less that she was the prettiest young lady in Lac Ville. She turned down the richest and most handsome men for miles around. Frances had green eyes and the full-bodied figure of the movie stars. She was the object of desire to almost every red-blooded man in the region. All of that meant nothing if she could catch the eye of Gil.

She did, one hot summer day by the lake. She was fishing by herself. She landed a five-pound northern pike and as she was pulling it from the water, she realized someone was watching her. She turned and saw Gil with his fishing gear. He smiled and asked her where her friends were. With her heart pounding, she replied that she liked to fish alone. Gil smiled and said, "I am going to marry you, Frances. "

They married in 1938 with the approval of their families, the church, and almost the whole town of Lac Ville, except for the many heartbroken men and women who had desired them both. Gil worked hard as a cutter and harvester of pulp and softwood lumber. He rose to foreman in the first two years of their marriage. They bought a small two-bedroom house right on the lake. When the war broke out in 1939, it did not seem real to either of them. News took a long time to arrive, and the radio only broadcasted when the weather was clear and ideal.


Louttit's taut narrative, and plot twists, masterfully build outrage and tension for the reader- like a . 303 in the hands of a nefarious foe, or a pine bug crawling up one's neck. A great read you won't want to put down.

David Giuliano, author of The Undertaking of Billy Buffone

Louttit's plotting is credible, clear, logical, detailed and devastating. . . Pine Bugs and . 303s is his first novel. It is an important novel, grounded in the history of Northwestern Ontario and our diverse cultures. Highly recommended.

Michael Sobota, reviewer in Thunder Bay's The Chronicle Journal

Louttit's debut shows promise, and he takes us back to a past we've seen many times, but rarely through both a Cree and white perspective. The book covers some dark material, showing the ugliness of a hard life, but offers a glimpse of a Canadian history not glamorized by quaint, CBC period programs.

The Quarantine Review, Issue 14

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