Monday, May 15, 2023

Who could ask for more?

We have one of those little "leave a book take a book" libraries in our front yard. 

My son Michel and daughter Ria built it as a Mother's Day gift for my wife Helena more years ago than I can remember, but my love for the thing increases by the day. 

My dad used to say we make the word love do too much heavy lifting and he was right, so I try to save it for the real mccoy. So when I say love, I don't fart around.  

Yesterday afternoon, the library proved (again) why it qualifies. 

At about 4:00., I was sitting on a tiny gardening chair, behind the structure, pulling up weeds. It was cloudy, but the air was warm and wind-free. The Beatles’  When I’m 64  “Doin' the garden diggin' the weeds” – kept worming through my ears. (I'd read somewhere that McCartney was 15 when he wrote that song. How could he have known?)
SHHH IT'S A LITTLE LIBRARY: And early some mornings,
the filing system is dewy.

A man and woman who looked in their early 30s stopped in front of the library. At first, I kept pulling weeds, pretending to ignore the visitors but just itching for an excuse to talk. 

It arrived. 

The woman: "Lots to choose from here."

I watched her take a book and  said, "We love when people use our library. What kind of books do you like?"

Her: "Anything factual, like history."

Then she surprised me with, "What about you?"

Me: "Ah, well, I ah actually read everything...unless it feels like homework. If I have to read something, I won't like it. I hate homework. Same as working in the garden. If I'm told I have to do it I won't wanna but if it's my choice, it's fun."

I saw that she'd retrieved a book called Movies.

Me: "Looks like a find,"

Her: "I actually work in film. Rather, I used to."

Me:  "Not anymore?"

Her: "COVID. You wouldn't believe all the layoffs."

Me "What  was your job?"

Her: "I was an A.D. Ever hear of Handmaid's Tale? I worked on that"

Me: "You're not going to believe this but I worked on Handmaid's Tale, too. The guy who used to live next door was in the picture-car business. I had my big truck-licence so he got me work driving in the movies. And I did Handmaid's Tale."

Me, to the guy: "And you?"

Him: "Visiting, from Kuwait."

Me: "Kuwait? I've never meet anybody from Kuwait before. How cool is that?"

Her: "I'm from Iraq." 

Me: "Iraq! Look at you two! Iraq and Kuwait! Right here in front of my house in Toronto!"

Me, off on a rant: "Oh man. This is wonderful. My ancestors came here, oh, I don't know, six or five generations ago from Ireland and Scotland or England or some place and when I meet people like from Iraq and you from Kuwait, well, I have to tell you, I feel, like my heart is filled with."--and as I was thinking of the right words with which to complete my sentence, the sun emerged from behind a cloud--"warmth."

Him, as if rehearsed: "You two really did work in show business, didn't you? That timing was perfect. The sun shone at precisely the right moment. "

"You have no idea," I said "how much planning that involved. And it cost me a hell of a lot of money."

Him: "I bet."

Did I mention they both spoke perfect English?  

I love it. 

In case you're wondering, the moment the two young people left I  stopped gardening, came into the house and wrote down what happened. 

This keyboard has soil on it. The weeds can wait.


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Lines and tires and bears, oh my!

For the past few days--because my good friend and the editor of Outdoor Canada magazine Patrick Walsh asked me to--I've spent maybe a dozen hours basking in 20 of the liveliest and best-written hunting and fishing magazine stories that I have ever read. I am proudly judging them for the 2022 Outdoor Writers of Canada National Communications Awards. 

you suspect I might have gone to all the trouble of
writing a blog, finding art and composing clever captions
for the sole purpose of publishing this photo, you might be right.
One after another, these magazine features took me for bumpy rides in pick-up trucks, ATVs, outboard motor boats, a kayak, and at one point, aboard a Triumph motorbike piloted by a woman writer looking for bear. 

I've read about moose hunting, clever wild turkeys, Rockie Mountain longhorn rams, coyotes, and teaching kids how to fly fish. We're talking crossbows,  lures, and apps that diarize every moment of your fishing trip. These clear-eyed wordsmiths compare hunting equipment, camo clothes, and even what sort of stuff you might find hidden in any avid fishing nut's (many of which I count as friends or am related to even) trunk. The length and expense to which some folks will go to hunt and fish will astound you. Or not.

Fact is, I think the stories are all fabulous. 

So I figured I'd throw my own into the mix. 

Here goes.

I shot a deer once.

Yup. I've never owned a gun or a hunting licence but I shot a deer.

On the way to a folk festival. (I was the one headed to the festival. I've no idea where the deer was going.)

ALLURING COUPLE: Me (on right) and Dave Schinbeckler,
 after one of my few successful fishing trips
It happened  three and change decades ago, on a sunny mid-summer afternoon, on the Trans Canada highway about 30 klicks west of my hometown of Sudbury. Helena, who is now my wife, and I were  headed, in her little bronze-coloured Mazda GLC with a sunroof, to Manitoulin Island.

I forget exactly what led up to the following, but at one point, the rear tires of the tractor trailer in front of us came in contact with a deer. At highway speed, the truck driver probably didn't feel, hear, see or know anything even happened. 

But we sure did. And we watched the poor creature, badly injured, barely make it to the ditch on the north side of the highway.

We pulled over. We had to do something but weren't sure what.

We got back into the Mazda, drove to the nearest house about a kilometre up the road, knocked and told the woman who answered that we wanted to call the Ministry of Natural Resources for help. (Cellphones weren't a thing yet.)

She was gracious but quick to tell us she was on her way to work. Turns out she was a nurse about to  leave for a shift at a Sudbury hospital.

I called the MNR and the ministry guy said their officers wouldn't be able to get to the deer for at least three hours and all they'd do anyway was put the poor deer out of its misery. 

"Could you," he asked, "get a gun and do it for us?" 

I shared that with Helena and the homeowner, and the latter of the two said, "I got a .22 you could use."   

I told the ministry guy I didn't have a licence. He said it didn't matter.  

The firearm-lending RN had to get going. 

She suggested I not only borrow her rifle but also, she had a 14-year-old son who was home and had  nothing better to do. She was leaving for work in a small car but she also owned a pick-up truck. 

She thought the best plan was that Helena and I take her gun, her truck, her pick-up, her son and a big cardboard box back to the scene of the accident. After I helped the deer along its way, we could bring the carcass back to the farmhouse.

She left for work, and  a trio of armed amateurs set out on a mission of mercy. 

Her kid! Her truck! Her loaded rifle! I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd offered me a 26er of Jack Daniels. I must have the least menacing appearance of anybody on the planet. 

Three of my sisters and my mom all earned RNs. Sometimes I think it stands for Real Nuts. Or maybe Really Nice.

We did what we said we'd do; mom and kid got a freezer full of venison, and Helena and I continued on down the highway to the folk festival. 

Unless you were the deer, this story has a happy ending. 

All about neighbourliness, trust and honesty. Also, part of the reason the story ends happily is the very fact that it in fact ended. Coinciding with my hunting career.

Henceforth, for me, chasing animals in the forest would be relegated to the same arena where I vicariously participate in many activities (armed combat, contact sports, family court spring to mind), and that is arena is, stories written by other people. 

I'm glad they write them.

I wouldn't  have the guts.