Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fathers Day, How The Years Go By.

   Certainly, the man that has most influenced me in life has been my Father. Although he has been gone for 18 years, more so than ever, I hear his voice in my words, see his features in the mirror, his humor in my stories, and his swearing when things go sideways.
   He spent his formative pre-war years at the family's logging camp at the head of Harrison Lake, driving off-road logging trucks before taking over management of the old Abbotsford Lumber Co. and dabbling here and there in real estate and mineral exploration over the years. He flew small planes, shot clay-pigeons and golfed for fun. He retired earlier than most, about the time his ticker started giving him problems. He did alright in life although he never got rich. He said once that to make a million dollars you had to be prepared to step on some toes along the way, and it was not in his make-up.
   Not always patient with us kids in the early years, or so we all thought at the time, we all had a fear of him which we have come to see as nothing more than a respect for authority, just like he had growing up. But inside the man was a huge soft-core. When I was quite young, I recall him taking me around town and being impressed that men respected him and sought out his company, and to me he was ten feet tall.
It was a point of pride when  I grew older and walking into stores having the owner greet me an say,
"Your Bill's boy."
   He gave me the two best pieces of advice I ever got in life. One was in the early 1960's while watching ABC Wide World Of Sports one Saturday afternoon. There was a motorcycle race on, it was an uncommon event to be shown on TV then and I was riveted to the set and what appeared to be organized mayhem, ideas already forming in my nine year old head.
"You see that." he said, bringing me out my trance and pointing out the obvious,
"The riders that keep their feet on the pegs stay under control."
And they did too. It was advice that I never forgot and when I grew older, I always kept my feet on the pegs. Still.
   An avid reader and history buff, in later years he was most often to be found with a good book in the recliner and a cat curled up on his lap, and often joked that he was just a warm spot for a cat to sleep.
He died earlier than most, 10 years older than I am now. The last time I saw him was shortly before he left, and he gave me the other most valuable piece of advice I've ever had. He asked if I had been doing any writing.
I said I hadn't been doing much lately and kind of sloughed-off the question.
He looked me in the eye and said, "Jesus man, you got to write."
And those were the last words he spoke to me.
 1956, me at 2, up on the Big Guy's desk at Abbotsford Lumber Co.

 1969, me at 15, Westwood racetrack.

1980, me at 26, Dad visiting the Yukon gold-mine.

2002, me at 48. He missed meeting his granddaughter Caitlin by a couple years.

   Anyways. Happy Father's Day Dad. I wish the bugger was still around. Just once more, I'd like a chance to sit down and ask a few more questions.
I know how I'm going to spend part of Fathers Day this year. 
Like a lot of days, there on the recliner, with a good book, and a cat curled on my lap. 
A warm spot for a cat to sleep.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Post For Anna.

    I've been having myself another one of my spells where I get distracted from posting something on here. I believe I set a record this time and it has been almost 3 months. Sometimes it gets to be a chore, or a job, both of which I've tried hard to avoid in life. I often ask myself what I get by keeping it up, and for awhile seriously considered over time dismantling the site and moving on to other things. 
   So I quit worrying about the old blog-site for awhile. I was getting kind of use to not buggering around with it and was starting to think probably no-one would even notice when a week ago I received an email one morning. It was from a reader in Sweden whom has left a comment in the past. Almost apologetically, and I suspect without a certain amount apprehension she inquired if I was alright, fearing I had suffered another heart attack.
   She might have speculated on the possibility of Mr. blog site falling prey to a bear attack, falling a tree on his dumb self, fell out of a tree, cut his head off with the chain-saw, stumbled into the fast moving river, got jumped by the cougar, bucked-off his motorcycle, fell into the creek checking his intake-screen and went over the falls, went senile and forgot his blog password, or maybe just got hauled off and put in a home somewhere. 
And there's nothing goddamn worse then checking some guy's blog to find the a-hole hasn't posted anything in months!
She didn't put it in those exact words, but I knew what she was thinking.
   So, to Anna in Sweden, I am fine as can be expected with this many miles on me, both mentally and physically. 
In my opinion of course, but they say you are always the last to know. 
   In closing, she mentioned some stories posted in the past, a few she found downright interesting, several had made her 'laugh out loud!' she said, and one in particular made her weep.
Which I guess is about the best compliment an on-leave blogster can hope for.
So I think I might just blow the cob-webs off the old lap-top and ease myself back into the job here at the Hotspring Lodge editorial desk.
Writing my blog password down someplace might be a good idea too.

Monday, March 27, 2017

For Customer Use Only

   Years ago when I was in the motorcycle business, I liked to arrive early to give myself a chance to get organized if that was possible, and enjoy a little quiet time before the day started. One morning not unlike any other I unlocked the business and walked in, the door making a 'ding' as it contacted the small bell we had attached above to warn us of approaching customers, and I took a moment to poke a code into the security system on the way by. Walking around the front counter I turned on the cash register and back in the parts-room I flicked-on the lights for the service area, checked the fax machine, and jabbed the switch on the coffee maker.
   I was standing there back at the front counter, with a fresh coffee, looking up some parts on the fiche reader. After a few minutes I was surprised to hear the front door go 'ding', that was a good sign I figured, usually a customer doesn't come in before opening unless they were going to buy something. 
   "Hey, how you doing this morning!" I said looking out from behind the fiche reader.
"Just fine thanks." he says politely, then looking about and sniffing the air oddly he adds "Nice store!"
That was a good sign too I thought to myself, beginning to speculate on how much of his wallet I could relieve him of before opening for the day. He wandered past a line of motorcycles, stops and admires an outboard motor, then zeros in on a new Honda 4-wheeler. 
"I've always wanted one of these." he tells me, which brought me out from behind the counter.
"You'd look really good on one of those." I told him hopefully,
"Hop on there, and I'll show you some of the features." 
He looked like he was going to get on and straddle the machine, then hesitated,
"I don't know that's such a good idea right now." he says, his face taking on a subtle anxious look. 
I realized I was going to have to work for this sale,
"Did I mention it has electric start?" I said, trying to get the ball rolling again. 
"Say." he says looking about with a certain amount of urgency,
"Have you got a washroom I can use?"
"Why certainly." I told him, "Its right there behind the counter."
   The building had originally been a small town bus depot, and whoever designed it had placed the washroom near the front of the building, that may have been convenient for a bus station, but the way we set up our dealership, the washroom ended up being right behind the front counter. I mean it was right there, within reaching distance. This had it's advantages, though I can't really think of one now, and it had some drawbacks too, of which I can think of several.
   One of those drawbacks became apparent after he had been in there for a minute or two, and I discreetly moved out of hearing range as best I could, although that wasn't entirely possible. The cacophony eventually subsided for a stretch, and then started up all over again with equal ferocity.
Finally, it got real quiet in there, and I heard the toilet flush, ...twice. 
"I bet he's glad to get that load off his mind." I chuckled to myself. 
   The washroom door finally opened and I picked up a brochure in anticipation of continuing our conversation where it had left off when nature called. 
"It's a 4-speed with an automatic clutch." I started in,
"You see right here it's an easy matter to engage the..."
"Thanks." he says staring straight ahead as he bolts past me for the door.
'Ding!' went the bell, and he was gone that fast.
I stood there for a moment, wondering about people, chuckled about the experience and started back for the counter.
   Then I walked into it, taking my breath away, the noxious cloud that followed in his wake. 
"Oh you rotten bastard!" I hollered after him, flapping the brochure in the air which only tended to spread it around the showroom with no sign of dissipating. I could see going back to the counter was out of the question for awhile.
Then the phone rang.
The phone was attached to the wall in a convenient location to the sales counter, right next to the washroom door. With an arm over my mouth I fought my way there and picked it up.
"Williams Lake... Honda" I managed to gag.
Some calls take longer than others, and this one under the circumstances was going on longer than I liked.
"Let me call you back." I said and hung-up the phone.
   I made the mistake of swinging the washroom door back and forth in an attempt to dissipate the aroma. Instead, it was like a cloud of green smoke rolled out of there, nearly knocking me off my feet, re-charging the offending cloud filling the showroom, and wafting clear out to the street I'm sure. 'For crissakes' I thought to myself, I needed to get this place aired out because I'd hate to be standing here if someone happened to walk...
'Ding' went the door-bell.
"Hey!, how are you today?" I asked the unfortunate soul that came in to pick up a part for his lawnmower. It seemed he was stuck for an answer, and with both our eyes watering, I tried to carry on the transaction like nothing was wrong, and to his credit was polite enough not to bring up the bad fragrance to the supposed source.
"Keep the change." were his parting words as he rushed for the door.
"Come again!" I called after him, although I'd be surprised.
   "Oh hell" I said, seeing the courier guy's van pull up out front.
'Ding' went the door.
"Delivery!" he calls in his usual cheerful voice, but by the time he got to the counter, any of that cheer had drained from his face.
"Here, let me sign for that quick and you can get on your way." I told him, scratching out a close rendition of my signature.
"Thanks" he mumbles from behind his elbow before making a quick exit.
 'Ring' went the damn phone again.
I had no sooner got off the phone when I hear the door go 'ding' once more, and I see one of the local ranchers walk in.
"Howdy" he says laconically.
"What can I do for you?" I asked, again making like nothing was wrong.
"Well...," he drawls, "You could start by hauling that dead cow out of here."
 So it went for several hours that day until finally the place got back to it's usual bad shop smell. About a week later I stopped in at the gas station down the road, and while filling the tank the owner and I were chatting about business, the weather, and the price of gas.
"Speaking of gas!" he suddenly exclaims,  "Watch out for the Phantom!"
"The what? I asked.
"The Phantom, he comes around chats you up and asks to use the bathroom and smells the place up something terrible! He graced us with a visit and hit the muffler-shop down the way, they chase him out of the McDonald's on sight, and he dropped a bomb at the coffee shop one morning, nearly shutting them down for the day. The owner is going to put the boots to him if he ever sees him around."
It wasn't long before a sign went up on the washroom door that read simply,
'For Customer Use Only'.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March 15 My Birthday Today, And Others.

    Most folks consider this an important date in one's life, the one day of the year to celebrate your coming into this world, but after you have had a whole pile of them, they sort of loose their appeal I think. None the less, on March 15, this day back in 1954, in Mission BC, a child came into this world. His ambitious, studious nature carried him on to higher education, with great success in business affairs. Pragmatic, philanthropic, and a goal orientated member of his church and community.
A charismatic leader of men, and the desire of women.
   About the same time, over in the next room, my Mom had just given birth to me, and according to my older siblings, the doctor's words at the time range from "Good lord!", to "Good luck with that!". Mom says I arrived when I damn well felt like it, and still not sure if I was worth the inconvenience.
Truth of the matter was, I arrived before the doctor got there.
"Going to make his own way in life." were his actual words, before running off to catch up with his foursome back at the golf course.
Well, I never had much in common with that other chap, but all in all, things have worked out alright so far.

     I brought down a box and blew the dust off some old journals that I had almost forgotten about, and had a good chuckle seeing what I was doing on birthdays of past.
Just a few sentences, my entries brief usually, not much detail, and often understated.
I can still read between the lines though.

 Like this entry on my birthday in 1995, scrawled quickly by candle-light under a mosquito net out in the remote wild lands of Central America. I know I had a few Caribbean rums in me before hammock time, and was no doubt played out from the days activities.
    I see I had turned 41. I've drawn a little smiley face sun to signify the weather that day.
'Son of a bitch it hot today...' it starts. If it was hot and uncomfortable enough to mention right off, you can rest assured, it was.
'Accomplished quite a bit.' I state casually. That means I survived the day in one piece.
'51 guys on job today.' That's a lot of people running around the operation with no little amount of dangers, then feeding, entertaining and housing them all out there in jungle-land.
Never a dull moment for sure.

 Other entries, like 1991 when I was in the motorcycle business, are more mundane.
I see I just turned 37, and I thought I was getting old! I wish....
Coral Ann, the thoughtful and charming secretary had brought in a birthday cake she had made. I took advantage of the sunny day to clean up back of the shop. I probably would have gone out for a steak dinner that night, giving the bone later to my best girl Fang.

   My beat up 1981 diary describes my 27th birthday in the rough and tumble gold town of Dawson City Yukon, holed up in the Eldorado Hotel while I waited on parts for a gold drilling rig my partners and I were using to test some ground way in the hinterland beyond the Indian River. But for the meantime, I was cooling my heels in town, watching HBO in the room, writing in my journal and waiting for a reasonable hour to go down to eat before partaking in the real entertainment for the evening, the legendary Sluice Box Lounge.
   Anyone who was anyone in the gold mining business frequented this establishment while in town. More deals were made, more business was done, and more brain cells were killed there than anywhere else in town. I had a celebratory glass or two with dinner, so by the time I made my grand entrance through the swinging doors of the Sluice Box Lounge, I already had a pretty good dose of personality showing. Someone, I'd speculate it was probably me, let it slip out it was my birthday, bringing on trays of shooters and liquors from behind the hotel bar with attractive names like Sluice Juice, Moose Drool, and Sled Dog Milkshake. Names that are pronounceable, and easy to order, even when you have had too many.
   The Sluice Box Lounge at the time was home to a strange and well known Yukon tradition. As the story went, in the olden days out on one of the gold creeks a miner had froze his toes, one of which he self-amputated with the aid of his axe on a chopping-block out at the wood-pile. The shriveled toe eventually made it's way to town and sat for decades in a jar behind the bar at the Eldorado Hotel.
   At some point, a severely pickled customer decided to add the semi-preserved toe to his drink, thus, to the amazement of his friends, who probably came up with the idea in the first place, drank the first of what was to become the legendary Sourtoe Cocktail. Years later some character swallowed the toe, and believe it or not, someone else just happened to have a preserved toe and mailed it to Dawson City to keep the tradition of the Sourtoe Cocktail alive. 
It is that nameless woman that I have to thank for the following life experience.
   I don't know if the Sourtoe Cocktail was as much of a tradition, as another way to have a good laugh at the expense of some poor brute that has been primed just right. Back then you had to be sponsored by some well meaning person, certainly no self respecting inebriate would order one for himself. Debbie's parents worked out on the gold creeks, and she did the late shift behind the hotel bar. Over time she had developed a keen eye for young smart-asses in the proper state of mind for a good toeing. She had a consultation with Capt. Dick Stevenson, a local character, river boat captain, and keeper of the pickled toe. The revered jar was carefully brought down and set upon the bar, bringing a hush about the lively lounge patrons.
   For reasons I don't recall, my recollection gets a little murky around this point in the evenings festivities, but I remember the gang all gathering around while Capt. Dick fished in the murky jar with a pair of tongs from the hotel kitchen. Getting hold of a nasty looking blackened object he shook it off and plopped it into a fresh drink that sat before me on the Eldorado bar, pushing it down in the ice and giving it a stir with a tobacco stained finger. I stared snake-eyed into my refreshment, before leaning back on my bar-stool and addressing the crowd...
"Make mine a double!" I stated, getting a big roar out of them all.
   The enthusiastic on-lookers gathered around are to ensure you don't try to cheat and put your glass down before you get to the really good part with the old toe in it, and to give you the bums-rush toward the swinging doors if it looks like you might get sick, where the disgraced toe-partaker would find himself sticking head first into the snow bank out front.

    Rather painfully, I awoke the next day in my room, backwards in bed, older, and very much wiser. On the dresser I discovered a diploma for my performance the evening before, signed by the famous Capt. Dick himself, which I still have. Someone there knew how to spell my name properly, it sure wouldn't have been me, and it looks like the only diploma I'll ever get, so I display it proudly. 
In no few words, it proclaims me to be '...a person capable of almost anything.'
   At any rate, I hope to have plenty more birthdays, though I don't go out and celebrate them anymore I might have a birthday cocktail now and again, but no more drinks containing body parts.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Passing On The Skills

My daughter Caitlin has come out to spend some time with her old Dad at the hotspring, it has been 12 years since she was here last, almost a lifetime for her, and I've been beside myself showing her around and giving her a taste of life out here in the wilds. We had a good frost last night making a firm crust on the snow and figured today might be a good one to take her up and pass on some skills on how to survive in the mountains. 
   We hopped on the quad and charged up the mountain, stopping at the intake-pond to replace the screen that was washed-out in the storm last week.
"This is where I've been disappearing to when the power goes off at night." I told her.
I also told her of when she was very young, before the road up here was constructed, and during problems with the intake I often brought her up with me strapped to my back, straight up the mountainside.
I don't think I could do that anymore.

We continued up to a higher level at a look-out over the valley.
The first wilderness survival lesson was to remember to bring your axe along with you, rather than leaving it sitting back home outside the shop door.
Certainly that axe would have made life easier alright, but I managed to round-up enough more or less dry wood, piled it up on top of the snow and poked the lighter in there.

A one lighter fire, and after much blowing, a burnt mustache and a few lung-fulls of smoke we had a survival fire going, and it was time to forage around for a mountain lunch.

   Luckily we didn't have to forage any further than the trunk of the quad. I had forgotten my knife back home with the axe, but using the ignition key I managed to hack my way into the pack of mountain survival food. Roasting-sticks were located close by sticking out of the snow, broke off by hand and used un-sharpened. The knife would have come in handy for this also I reminded her.
   Well, not quite living off the land, but I thought it was a wonderful way to spend a winter's afternoon with your favorite person, and found time when we got back for a full-throttle thrill-ride down the airstrip on the rocket-sled, where the survival lesson here is to 'Hold On Tight'!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Messin' With The Guests...

    There's been several outfits come and stay out in the guest cabin recently, and out here in the middle of Winter with no TV you need to come up with your own entertainment sometimes, or maybe small things amuse small minds.
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

   I don't know if I fooled anyone, or if anybody even noticed, but if they did they never said anything. I thought it odd that one outfit went home a day early though.

Groundhog Day, and Diggin' Out The Girls

   We survived the series of Mango Monsoons that rolled through here a few weeks back, then it colded-up all over again. This has been a real Winter this year and was looking forward to it breaking it's back and some milder temperatures prevailing.
   Centuries ago, in what is now Germany, folks got the strange belief that a badger could predict the weather, and planted their crops based on a rodent's reaction to a crowd of spear-carrying people standing there looking at him. According to folklore, if he sees his shadow on February 2 it will return to it's burrow for another 6 weeks, but if he doesn't Spring is on the way. The mindless custom was brought to North America and made more ridiculous by groundhogs with such names a Wairton Willy, Shudenacade Sam, Brandon Bob and others.
   No stranger to the mindless or ridiculous, I remembered the groundhog burrow that was not far from here, and seeing it was February 2, I thought it might be worthwhile to sneak over there and see if he might appear. So I took the quad over on the crust and parked myself there on the snow awaiting the appearance of our local forecasting groundhog, or whatever he is, 420 Larry.

   I was about to give up, thinking I had made the mistake of staking-out the bear den by mistake again, when suddenly the crust crumbled from beneath. Snow began to fly out in all directions, the activity coming to a halt for brief periods when a puff of smoke would rise up, and I thought I could hear some muffled ACDC playing down there somewhere.

Patience payed off again, capturing 420 Larry's emergence from his burrow.
Well I was as surprised as you are probably. Keeping in mind 420 Larry's track record of mis-forecasts, and the fact that if he had only turned around he would have seen his shadow, according to lore and Larry, Spring was just around the corner.
  But he didn't mention the horrendous dump of snow a week later. A thick white cloud descended on the valley few nights ago, dropping a couple feet of the lovely white pain-in-the-ass. Naturally all this snow falling in the creek up the mountain clogged up my intake and the power went off at 4 am. and I reluctantly got out of bed and slugged my way through the deep snow over to the pelton-wheel. It was obvious the screens up the mountain were clogged with slush so all I could do was turn off the main valve and let them soak in that mountain slushie up there at the intake-pond and see if it will loosen up enough to flow enough water to crank up the electricity the next morning. At least I hoped that would happen, I didn't relish the though of digging my up the mountain to service the intake-screen.

    I spent several hours the next day digging a tunnel from the house out to the shop and over to the wood-shed, and it was snowing so hard I could have used a shovel sticking out of both ends. The snow let off, and I dug my way back over to the pelton-wheel and turned on the main valve, the screen had shed enough slush in 4 hours that the generator fired right up. I turned my attention to the next priority, that being digging myself out of here, not that I had to go anywhere, but there was going to be a hell of a mess around if I didn't. 
   My poor old Tractor and main plowing machine has been in a bad state through all this cold weather we had. I keep a block-heater plugged in but failed to realize at some point it had gone on the fritz and not doing it's thing. So the tractor had frost coming off the engine block and it hadn't been above freezing for I don't know how long. I was hoping not to spend money on a new block-heater this time of year, if I can get this far along in the year starting the tractor is usually not a problem as any major snowfalls should be done with.  But I had a big problem now.
   Out of desperation I had put a heat-lamp underneath the oil pan in anticipation of the storm, but there was no way the old bugger would crank fast enough to catch.

 Within hours of the snow abating, it started to rain and by morning put an inch crust on the 2 feet of snow with water collecting in large puddles on the surface. 

   I went out this morning and dug a trench over to the tractor, fully prepared to drain the oil out and bring it in and heat it up on the wood-stove, and the froze-up old bugger didn't look encouraging as far as it cranking-up anytime soon. I hooked up the jumper cables from my pickup that was conveniently stuck right next to it, and thought I'd just give it a quick try, and to my surprise fired right up and settled down to a nice idle.
The heat-lamp and a day of above freezing had done the trick.

I got the yard and driveway passable, but it was about all the old machine could do to push the deep heavy wet snow.
The driveway taken care of for the time being, I moved on to the next pressing issue.
   The day previous, there had been a surprise knock at the door, a couple of gals had arrived for a night of camping at the hot spring, only to wake up in the morning with their vehicle buried under a couple feet of snow. Later that day, after what must have been a godawful slug through knee-high drifts they arrived on the door-step here inquiring when they should expect the grader to come and plow around the campsite, followed soon after by the sanding truck no doubt. 
I pointed at the 'grader', told them I had a light-bulb underneath, and with a little luck and some warmer weather there was a pretty good chance of me getting it going someday. 
The girls looked forlornly at the half-buried, frost-bitten, frozen old heap in the driveway, and must have thought they were going to be marooned for weeks, if not months.
Were them two marooned girls ever going to be glad to see me, and a good opportunity for a selfie.

Saved at last.
I broke a rough trail in there and got them out of their current situation, which was high-centered in a hole with all four wheels spinning, and back-bladed all the way out to the main road. Sorry ladies, your names went in one ear and out the other in all the excitement, I don't get out much, but from California by the plate and enrolled at Quest University in Squamish I beleive.

This is my favorite part about rescues.
Once the arms go around it always takes me a long time to take the selfies...
"Always take two!" I say.
"That one might have been blurry, we better take another."
"I think I closed my eyes that time... we better do that again."
"Let's try a few with me in the middle!" I suggested hopefully.
"Umm, we had better be getting along now." they finally told me.

   The formerly stranded pair hit the main road towards civilization, I told them they would probably run into a slide a ways down the road but that a real grader would be along sometime later that day to open it up, and off they went, and will probably never forget the time they went for an evening's camp at a hot spring in Canada.