Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Its A Long Way To Town If You Want To Rock And Roll

   Mel's annual birthday party and general whoop-up is a much anticipated event up in Pemberton. Her partner Kirk runs a car repair outfit in town and puts on a BBQ, barn dance and general whoop up for her this time every year. Included in the evenings fun is live music and I started inviting myself several years back.
   The day before I go out and have a look at my van. I've had some tire problems on my Safari tour bus recently, it is a long story that includes a ruined tire and trying to match it because it is an all wheel drive and.....anyways, the long and short of it is that Melanie's birthday rolled around and I still had a tour bus with 3 tires. I figured I would jack both my vehicles up and put the pickup wheels on the van to go in with. It turned out to be more work than I was interested in, and on top of it all the lug nuts were seizing and very difficult to remove, I had a several foot long snipe for leverage too! So I figure I will put on the donut spare to go in on. The damn nuts barely go on and end up seizing before the rim is on tight, so like I say, I had a snipe on my breaker bar and kept givin' her until the wheel stud broke off. Well, I was a little choked about that, but I could still go in on 4 lug nuts. So I proceed to tighten up another...it too snaps off.
   I end up with the rusty spare wheel sort of secured on there with 3 lug nuts. I figure this is fine as long as I take it easy. Saturday rolls around and I start loading all my gear in the tour bus van. I've got a little bigger kit than most drummers, and I was supplying the PA system. You see the mountain of gear I've got and you would think Cirque du Soliel was showing up. The speakers are almost the size of me and I'm getting too old to pack my own stuff around, then theres the sub woofer for my bass drum that is all I can do to lift it. I get it all stuffed in there and it is quite a load. I was still wondering how well that front wheel was on there, but decided to make a slow run for town, allowing 2 hours to get there.  I'm driving along and everything is going pretty good, I'm going slowly, so I have plenty of time to think. Way down the road, almost at the lake, all of a sudden it occurs to me that I forgot my bass drum foot pedal back home. I slammed on the brakes and dug around in there and sure as hell, no foot pedal. I couldn't play with out it. I suppose I could,....but I wouldn't. I called myself a few names while I turned around a charged back home, I arrived back in a huff and retrieved the pedal, and thought to check the front wheel before leaving to see that it is working loose once more. So I get my long handled wrench on there to snug it up and just as I figured would happen, another stud busts off. So holy cow, its a good thing I have two vehicles, I backed my half broken down old rat truck over and started to pile all my gear in the back. It had taken an hour and a half to carefully stow the equipment and kit in the van, but about 10 minutes to pile it all in the back of the pickup, behind the seat and strapped in the passenger seat and away I went, half expecting the pickup to fall apart or calve on the road.
   Kirk and Mel live at a horse riding center not far out of Pemberton. We set up right in the stables for the dance later where we couldn't do any damage and there was a big feed and BBQ going on just outside.

Things really began to liven up out there around the old fire pit after dark.

   This is my favorite seat, looking at musicians backsides. My band mate in Blackwater MC, Josh 'Frontman' Fairbrother was there. Local keyboard whiz Roz sat on my sub woofer with her keys on a table barn dance style, and Jared showed up with his bass.  Cowboy Sam Field wandered in and played a few sets of country. 
   While this is going on I'm watching a giggling crew string up a (fittingly enough) horse like pinata in the area at stage front. They wheel a wobbly but highly enthusiastic Melanie in and the crowd follows, and we just keep rockin' on. Kirk put the blindfold on and armed her with an appropriate pinata bat, which I think was previously a post for a fence someplace. Melanie grew up in the maple sugar region of Quebec, she works for the Village of Pemberton, pruning trees with a chainsaw, operating a large weed whacker, and doing heavy landscape work. For relaxation she drives a race car and flings bales of hay around the riding stable.
I had to question the wisdom of providing her with such a formidable weapon, but we were in a horse barn after all, and the horses had been let out for the night for their own protection. At the crowds urging she began to take great powerful swats into the air amid great cheers. At one point, on one of the rare occasions she had actually been facing in the right direction, she completely severed the rope holding the poor pinata horse.  Kirk ran in ducking and got her disarmed, and a crew came in to tie it back up to the rafter beam.  Mel was warmed up now, and the crowd backed up a little as Kirk lowered the blindfold,  pointed her more or less in the right direction, then got the hell out of the way. After a few monster swipes into space she got turned around and chased the crowd clear out the other end of the stable before swinging her way back towards the pinata. Josh, Roz and Jared were getting ready to unplug and make a run for it . There was a flurry of wood splinters and chips flying, light bulbs going out and people screamed for their lives, until finally by chance she connected a great hay maker to the nervously swinging pinata pony. Pow! The crowd howled and there was a scramble for the candies that exploded and went everywhere.  The madness carried on until the wee hours and things started to wind down and the fire pit out front burnt low. I backed my truck in and proceeded to break everything down and piled in the back for the trip back to the bush.
   Between sets all evening, old Frontman had been no stranger to the beer cooler out at the fire pit and was in obvious need of a ride home, and possibly even a little help up his steps too.
"Thanksh for coming man." he says when I drop him off, "Drive shafe".
He'll go back for his 4x4, amp and guitar in the afternoon, when he recalls where he left it.
   About 2 am I stopped at the Petrocan for gas and mix up a coffee for the long trip home. While there I chatted with the huge night shift taxi driver I've known for years, and told him where I had been playing.
"Oh ya!", booms Littleboy, "I got all kinds of trips out of there tonight!".
    The drive home I've done a thousand times before feels like. I won't see another vehicle once I leave Pemberton. Late at night like this after a gig, driving slow with my gear aboard I sort of zone out and it goes by not so bad. I always make sure I have good boots along, just in case I need to walk the last 10 miles or something some night.   I was afraid of one thing... rain.  All the PA equipment was uncovered in back, along with my prized Gretsch custom drums.  So sure as hell, just when I think I have it made it begins to rain way back there around the 36 km marker. It starts to really come down when I cross Rogers Creek, and just after 4 am I pulled into the lit up yard here at the Lodge. I swung around back to park under cover  and there is this great big embarrassed looking bear standing there, all soaking wet and dripping.  He has nabbed himself a bag of recyclables and was standing there wondering what to do with it when I wheel in and surprise him in the headlights. He stares at me for a moment then takes the bag and runs off, stomping on it with his hind foot and leaving a trail of cans, bottles and detergent jugs across the yard and off into the dark, wet woods.
But I was home safe, and pulled off one more adventure to play someplace, despite much adversity. It turns out forgetting the foot pedal behind actually saved my butt, as the van never would have made the round trip there and back.
I wonder if Charlie Watts has to chase bears off his lawn when he returns from gigs?




Two Decades.

         There was an important milestone around here a couple days back, twenty years ago I arrived out here and the hot spring property has been my home ever since...so far. Previous to that I had probably visited the hot spring 6 or 8 occasions in my life since I was just a young lad.
I went out to the shop loft and brought down a old box marked "Journals", blowing the dust off it I opened it up and searched for the one with 1994 on the spine...
   I had made two trips just prior to arriving here for good. A month back I had been in from the Pemberton end and parked an 18 foot travel trailer at the hot spring, then a few weeks later drove up the West Harrison goat trail from the south to see if I could get through that route with a large Hayes 6x6 crane truck for log building. I found out soon enough  it was not going to be possible but I spent an interesting weekend at the hot springs. The trailer was there and had already been broken into, it was messed up inside and a few little things missing. There was mostly shovels and rakes and things for working around the hot spring and some camping gear stored in there. I  got it cleaned up and organised and the gear set up for cooking over the fire. The weather was sunny and almost hot.
Meeting that first weekend crowd of campers was an education, I thought to myself, "Well, this is going to an  interesting deal..."
   A week or two later I loaded up and headed back to the springs. I started off from the lower mainland earlier in the day and had my poor short wheelbase pickup grossly overloaded with second hand lumber I had spent the previous day pulling bent nails out of, and most anything I figured I might need for the first week or two. I have such a load on the vehicle is weaving on the road and I'm slowing way down on the corners. Anyone who has driven on the old Sea To Sky highway in those days can imagine the line of nasty traffic I had built up on my tail. The box was piled high with lumber and adorned with camping gear, fuel cans and a kitchen sink. To the line of traffic behind I must have looked like some hillbilly swerving down the road.  I stopped in the village of Pemberton for groceries, fuel, and ice, and was in for an introductory case of sticker shock.
   It was a slow drive once I hit the gravel road at the head of Lillooett Lake. The day had been rather dark and dreary with scattered showers. I started down the lake road about dinner time, and pulled into the T'sek campsite at 8 that evening. Under the power line before the entrance road sat a Caterpillar D7 bulldozer. The low bed from Boston Bar had unloaded it there mid afternoon. There had been some root rotted big firs and wind blow down on the property, a section had been logged a year or so previous, the cat was rented to remove stumps and move them to a pile for burning and smooth things out.
   I drove slowly into hot spring campsite, it was just getting dusk, and there was no one else there. I pulled up to the little travel trailer parked front and center. Of course it had been broken into again, but one thing I've learned out here is no one steals garden tools. I got a fire going and set up my adjustable over the fire cooking grate. I sat around the fire after dinner and laughed and joked for awhile with myself before going down and climbing into a tub of the most wonderful, soothing, thermal water.
   In the morning I would unload the lumber and plywood and begin the first job of building a tent frame and cover it with tarps stapled on. It would be used for storage and a couple cots in there for guests. At the time I had zero carpentry skills, and day two into my tent frame fiasco some locals arrived in a converted school bus. They were curious about this character setting up camp at the hot spring and had to come over and have a chat. They had a good laugh over my haywire efforts at putting up a simple tent frame. The driver, Larry Cosluich, was a carpenter up in Pemberton, "Your going about it all wrong" he said, trying to hold a straight face, then went and got his tools that happened to be in the bus, including some strange thing called a 'square'.. The tent frame served several months duty before I chained it to the back of my pickup and skidded it down the road and set up camp at the cleared other end of the property that August, almost on the spot I sit at now.
   Funny, when I sat in the hot tubs that 'first' night, I really didn't look ahead as far a 20 years, thinking I would still be here. There was so much to do I didn't think much further than that. There was some plans for a small scale hydro electric system, some fruit trees, and a small 'fishing' cabin built from some cedar poles that were around, but not too much beyond that.
   Who would have figured 20 years later, I'd still be sitting around, comfortable in my shop, the laptop connected to my satellite by wireless, and writing on a .com site sent out worldwide and read by upwards of 100 people a day. And my carpentry skills have improved plenty!
   Over the years I've seen thousands of people come out and enjoy the area, but they always had to go home again. I was the lucky guy that always got to stay. Me and my first nation neighbors out here, I've always said we must be the luckiest people on earth to live in such a wonderful territory.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Adventure In The Far Away Mountains

One day in 1964...
   Spring had come early here in the Far Away Mountains, the land of wild hairy beasts, and brave hairy men. I had led my small party into this wild new frontier by way of the Dead Dog Trail, paddling the whitewater of the raging Hitchikatchee River, and beyond into the land not yet marked on maps. We pressed onwards, into Polecat Pass, where eyes watched our every move, and negotiated the mossy overhangs and vines of Cave Ape Mountain.
   A whiskered, barrel chested mountain man of legend in these parts, I had embarked on this difficult journey in search of treasure. Gold...and stuff. Accompanying me on this dangerous quest are my two sidekicks, Lowland Larry and Whipsaw Walter,  my woman, the lovely and mysterious Rita, and last but not least, my wolf dog, Whodat. Though not quite as barrel chested and whiskered as myself, Lowland Larry, and Whipsaw Walter have proven to be good trail companions.  I had saved their lives once...of course. I remember it was back in '61, sneaking through the Valley Of The Bones one night to avoid waking the cave apes. Lucky for them, Whodat was able to direct me to the tar pit they were trapped in, we just got them out of there before the volcano went up. The three of us have had some wild times around old Fort Buckaroo too. Like that time I had to wrastle that one-eyed grizzle bear outside the Raccoon Saloon, back in '62 I think it was. That bear will think twice about coming into town again, by himself anyways. My woman, the lovely and mysterious Rita, served sarsaparilla's and played hontytonk accordion back at the ol' Raccoon and had hopelessly fallen for the tall handsome stranger from the border country that would wrestle belligerent Old One Eye on a dare. My highly trained wolf dog has been by my side since I rescued her from a den in an eroding river bank during the big flood of '57.  The Wolf Dog's legend grew quickly, the mountain natives giving her the name Whodat. Translated from the local Higoochie dialect it means roughly, 'wanderer of neighborhood and neighbors garbage cans'.
   Safe passage to the country on the other side of Headless Kid Pass was granted by the chief of the remote Higoochie tribe. The Higoochies guarded the pass and had only recently stopped boiling mountain men in large black pots. My party had been granted access to the rich land beyond after I saved the entire band during the great gopher famine back in February.
   Our journey had been a trying one, four years duration it was, and it was Winter for three of those years. It had been uphill all the way from Fort Buckaroo, and it will be uphill all the way back as well, at least until we lower ourselves up the other side of craggy Backward Mountain.
   It had been a productive day discovering gold mines and hot pools.  My woman, the lovely and mysterious Rita, sits with adoring eyes for her rugged, whiskered mountain man, mending my buckskin jacket after that run in I had with the sabre tooth mountain lion last night.
Lowland Larry and Whipsaw Walter are by the fire roasting fresh wieners caught today and laugh heartily while I regale them with tales of past escapades from the olden times, back before unexplored country got civilised like it is nowadays.  Back when a man had to eat snow all Winter. And it was dark all the time. I leaned back against my pack board, took in the fresh air of the remote mountaintop and contemplated the view.
   My keen mountain man senses picked up a pending danger, a long legged, stalking, presence...and suddenly, 'WHACK!", just like that, a branch smashed down not inches from me. I straightened up in my desk with a start, and turned my head from the view out the window to the staring faces and giggles of the entire grade three and four classroom. The teacher, Mrs. Crowley, or Old Crow Legs as some of the older boys called her, which I always thought was funny as hell, stood there tapping her wooden pointer on her hand. This pointer got used for many tasks I had found out on past expeditions, like rapping the desks of inattentive 10 year old, hairy and barrel chested mountain men.
Old Crow Legs started in once more,"Robin, if you don't pay attention, how do you expect to keep up?" 
Well that wasn't the first time I had been asked that by an exasperated teacher, and it wasn't the last.
My buddy Larry sat over in the the next grade and I can see him trying hard to stifle a laugh, he looks much different now without his beard. As does Walter who sits ahead a row, he is looking straight ahead, hoping to avoid getting in trouble by association.
Over a few rows, at the front of the grade four class, Rita stares at me over her shoulder, her gaze one of disgust, then shakes her head and rolls her eyes before turning back to her notebook.
"She looked at me...." I thought to myself, blushing, "...she looked at me!"
 Old Crow Legs brought me back to earth, "Now class, including you Mr. Trethewey, please pick up where we left off...".
   My friend Larry lived on a small farm down on the flats where his folks ran a few milk cows, and Walter lived down across the tracks close to the border crossing. Together on our bikes, along with  my hopeless dog Whodat, had the type of adventures only rural kids and dogs can have. We started school together, and used to be in the same class, ...but they don't get held back.

The old Huntington Elementary School sat out in the farmland that straddled the Canadian side of the 49th parallel near Sumas, and served the needs of the eighty or so rural hick kids in the immediate area. Grades one thru seven, three classrooms with three teachers, the school had been built in 1930 and used sawdust in the walls for insulation.  Its one redeeming feature was that the windows were predominately to the north, and to the chagrin of a generation of teachers, I would transport myself away to adventures in the far off range of mountains that rose beyond the Fraser Valley. 
Although it didn't improve my grades any, it sure helped pass the time.
Over the years I have thought lots about that old schoolhouse, and not without a certain fondness, but oh how I hated to be there. I looked out school windows until I was old enough to graduate myself, then my real education began. From where I sit here and write this, 50 years later, I can see a high mountain. If I were to go up there with a telescope, I could look south, and on a clear day, with a bit of imagination, I could almost make out the remains of that old schoolhouse in the far away.