Most of the seals are 25 miles offshore, probably near Miracle Island. The beluga whales, which usually migrate past Rankin Inlet at the beginning of August, came three weeks early this year, and the Tootoos haven't seen one since Jordin returned in the second week of July. Rather than go home empty-handed, Barney stops the canoe at a favorite fishing spot, and in 20 minutes they catch a half-dozen cod on jigs. He fillets them on shore in the endless twilight of a northern summer evening as Jordin loads the canoe on the trailer. It is 12:30 a.m. when the hunting party returns.
Rose, the family matriarch, is still up. Blunt and salty-tongued, she would tell a queen or a prime minister where to take a hike. And she is protective of her men. "She roars like a lion," says Barney, "but is a kitty inside."
Rose takes the fillets from Barney and starts preparing the fry pan, melting butter and Crisco. She dredges the fillets in flour, salt and pepper. After cooking them, she sets the steaming-hot fillets on a paper towel. Picked up by fingers, they are Arctic candy. Then Rose announces she's heading out to play cards with the ladies. It's 1:15 a.m.
"You know what our family motto is?" she asks, turning from the door that has never known the rap of knuckles. "We're not the best, but we're hard to beat."