Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

Archive for January, 2018


Jan 16/75  Sense and Nonsense [Nechako Chronicle]

Now that the holiday season is all over I have decided to compile a list of “nots” for next year. This list is composed from various irritating, miserable and downright awful experiences of Christmases past and recent past

First of all do not place any Xmas baking in a green plastic garbage bag unless you use a different coloured bag for the garbage. This can result in an extra special treat for the animals who reside at the village dump.

Secondly, do not forget to buy lots of various sized clear foil bags. According to the handy booklet enclosed with these bags (which I found on Boxing Day) they are great pot savers. You put your vegetables in the smaller bags and place them in a pot of boiling water. When the vegetables are done you transfer the bags into bowls and your pot is still clean.

Thirdly, if you use clear foil around your turkey, be sure to poke holes in it before you roast it. I had a turkey explode on me once and it was a mess. Luckily it was a small turkey. An exploding twenty-seven pound Christmas turkey could be dangerous as well as disastrous.

Fourthly, I have discovered that during the holiday season more woman-hours are spent doing dishes, especially glasses, than any other chore. On about the twentieth of December buy about two hundred plastic foam cups. You can serve anything from Xmas cheer to ice-cream in these. If you have any Scottish or Dutch blood in your veins, do not succumb to the urge to wash and re-use these cups. Even if your guests drank only water from un-lipsticked lips, never allow these cups to be immersed in dishwater. If the Prime Minister and his Cabinet happen to drop by you could condescend to serve them drinks in your good glasses. However, only if they promise (in writing) to reduce unemployment, cut taxes and combat inflation.

Fifthly, if you must send out Xmas cards, do so before the big rush. For the past three years I have made resolutions not to send out cards. However, this involves more strength of character than I can find; besides its fun to receive cards even if it is such a bore addressing and stamping your own. Why can’t we buy cards with the envelopes already stamped? The Post Office people would probably appreciate this too. One year the little post office where we lived had run out of six-cent stamps a week before Christmas. We had to use six one-cent stamps on every envelope. My tongue was so sticky after all that licking that I felt like a frog. Luckily the black fly season was long past.

Sixthly (now where did I put my teeth?) do not send out any plain Christmas cards. There is always a letdown when opening a card and finding it is merely signed by the sender with no message at all other than the printed verse on the inside. This year I vowed not to send out any plain cards. I bought only eight-cent stamps thinking that I would send pictures or letters with every card. As it was I ran out of pictures and developed writer’s cramp halfway through the job. I ended up sending out a bunch of plain cards with sealed envelopes. I hope these people noticed that they at least rated an eight-cent stamp.

There are many other “nots” which I would like to remember for next year. However, if nothing worse happens than having a batch of baking go out to the dump I am sure next year will once again be a darn good Christmas.


Mar 10, 1975 Sense and Nonsense [Nechako Chronicle]

Charles Darwin had a theory that people are descended from apes. If this is true then a lot of apes may someday be people. It may take a few million years but in the process of evolution anything is possible.

I understand that some apes in the zoo are already practicing to become people. Five baboons have been making a pretty good living as artists. They have been receiving up to $50.00 a painting depending on whether or not the paintings are framed. Apparently they have become bored with painting and lately have refused to practice their talents. At least that is how the story goes. Maybe these baboons are really on strike for higher wages. There is still a language gap between them and their agents so there undoubtedly is a difficulty in communications. A baboon may look bored when he is really disgusted. Fifty dollars really isn’t that much when you think of the baboon-hours involved, the special talent needed, and the probability that a zoo does not have the best working conditions. I doubt if there is a window facing north in the part of the zoo where the baboons work. Most artists seem to prefer a north light for some reason.

I certainly hope these baboons receive a proper reward for their creativities. I hope they will soon return to the business of applying paint to canvasses. Someday I may be in a position to buy one of their masterpieces. A genuine original may be worth a fortune in years to come, not to mention the beauty it would add to a wall in the home. I understand that more and more home decorators are insisting that bathroom walls should no longer remain bare. After all one does spend some time in the bathroom and one’s guests usually visit this humble but important hideaway. Unobservant guests may ignore the beautiful paintings in the living and dining rooms but I am sure they would notice a baboon-original hung in a prominent place in the bathroom.

Darwin’s theory has long been controversial. People have denounced it as being demeaning and blasphemous. If apes could read I wonder what they would think of it. That their ultimate destiny was to shed their fur coats, wear uncomfortable clothing and shoes, and work hard at dull jobs 8 hours a day, forty hours a week, may not seem exciting to them. That their children’s children may someday invent a bigger and better bomb may not exactly turn them on.

Anthropologists have spent a lot of time looking for the missing link. Apparently there is a large gap in physical appearance between the smartest ape and the dumbest people. They believe that there must have been a civilization of half-naked apes. They do not believe we shed our fur coats and grew longer noses overnight.

Paul Harvey, a radio commentator back in the Fifties had us excited one night. He used to analyse the news every evening at six. At the end of one of his monologues he made this startling proclamation. “Scientists have at last found the missing link between apes and civilized man,” he announced in his deep booming baritone. After a dramatic pause which had us all on the edge of our sofas, he added “It’s us!”


August 5, 1976 [The Nechako Chronicle]

The 1976 Summer Olympics have been a 100% success – especially for East Germany, U.S.S.K., United States and West Germany. The Big “4” have taken this lions’ share of the medals. Canada captured quite a few silver and bronze medals but lamentably no gold medals at all.

I have noticed that our athletes seem to do well in the water, on the ice and in the snow. Almost all of our outstanding athletes have competed in sports utilizing these elements. Many of our swimmers, rowers, skaters and skiers have “done us proud” in the past, Canadians seem to do best where there is an extra challenge involved. Place a Canadian with his feet planted on firm dry ground and he is often unspectacular. Add water, ice, snow, or possibly mud and he is outstanding.

I believe we missed a bet this year with the Olympics being held in our country. We could have added some brand new competitions more suited to our particular talents or else, with the help of our very own naturally nasty weather, downgraded some of the track and field conditions.

If the weather were too nice in Montreal, we could have moved some of the competitions further west. I am sure Canadians would have done well in racing if the track had been coated with good old clay gumbo; the kind that builds up under your sneakers until your feet weigh more than you do. Canadian kids, especially country kids are very good at running in the mud – sometimes with only one shoe on. The other shoe is buried in a mud hole. That could have been a novel all Canadian Olympic race – hopping on one shoe down a muddy track. The other foot could have been encased in a white sock to detect cheaters. The cleanest sock at the finish line would have been awarded the gold medal. Canada would have probably won all three medals in that race.

High jumping in a wind, especially during a dust storm would have been a cinch for prairie kids. Prairie kids are used to high winds and dust storms. They always know which direction the wind is coming from and usually make sure it is at their backs. They are very good at seeing with their eyes closed and seldom open their mouths during a dust storm. Prairie kids definitely can see better with their eyes closed than many of the official judges at the Montreal Olympics.

It is too bad the 1976 Summer Olympics couldn’t have been made to fit our athletes instead of trying to make our athletes fit the conventional Olympics. And maybe under the adverse conditions I have mentioned the games’ costs could have been reduced to fit the original budget as well.


Sept 9, 1976 Sense and Nonsense

The young people of today seem to have completely shed the shackles of superstition.

Their forefathers tread much more carefully and often with a good deal of trepidation. They never crossed a black cats’ path nor walked under a ladder. If they spilled salt at the breakfast table, they diligently sprinkled a little more over their left shoulders. Spiders usually died of natural causes except in years of drought, and Friday the 13th was a good day to stay in bed.

Our generation, born in the dirty thirties and not-so-fabulous forties, are less superstitious than our parents were. But we are also inclined not to take unnecessary chances. If we see a black cat in our path we encourage it to travel in another direction. We do not walk under ladders unnecessarily nor step on spiders except in years of drought. And we do not sprinkle salt over our left shoulders anymore. That is because very few people spill salt anymore. The salt shakers of today have very small holes in them, barely large enough to release enough salt to enhance the flavour of the smallest egg. We do spill milk, sugar and jam regularly on the breakfast table but luckily there are no superstitions regarding them. If there were, I would have a very messy left shoulder much of the time.

There are few people over thirty years of age who can honestly regard Friday the 13th with complete nonchalance. We can pretend it is a day like any other day but most of us feel at least a slight trembling in one small superstitious vein, as this day approaches. It is probably a memory from childhood when our parents regarded Friday the 13th as a very bad day. We used to laugh at them, but there was always the possibility that they were right. Parents were often right in those days.

I have found that Friday the 13th sometimes seems to have a delayed affect. This past Friday the 13th was not a bad day at all but the following Friday was disastrous. I am wondering if it has something to do with the moon. Our calendar does not always follow the moon phases but is often contrary to Natures’ very own calendar. If it did, Easter Sunday would always fall on the same date. There is often as much as two weeks variance between Easters from one year to the next. Therefore I am of the opinion that Friday the 13th just past actually fell on Friday the 20th.

The first five minutes of the day were not unusual. I did not burn the toast and only broke one egg yolk. I placed a pot lid on hubbys “sunny side ups” to preserve their warmth like they do in the hospitals. This was a mistake. When he lifted the lid to survey his breakfast the steam from the eggs provided the suction to hold the plate firmly to the lid. Not firmly enough though. Plate, toast and eggs (sunny side down) landed on the floor and hubby was left holding the lid. I quickly cooked him another breakfast, breaking both egg yolks this time. I am sure today’s eggs must be laid by yesterday’s chickens, the yolks are so fragile. I made sandwiches for our breadwinners’ lunch; then remembered this thermos. It was still half-full of last Tuesday’s chicken soup. I had tried for two days to remove the top, to no avail. When I tried to twist off the lid everything else twisted as well. Hubby with his superior dexterity and intellect removed the bottom half of the casing and proceeded to remove the thermos from the lid instead of vice versa. Suddenly there was a small explosion combined with the terrific odor of three-day -old chicken soup.

Molotov would probably have envied the devastation this small bomb had caused. Thermos glass, chicken soup and this dreadful smell were everywhere. After a complete change of clothing hubby had just enough time for a cup of coffee. The coffee was cold and the devils that decide the fate of mortals on unlucky days had drained the propane tank. Hubby left for work coffee-less and I went back to bed. I placed a rabbits’ foot under the pillow and pulled the covers over my head. One cannot be too careful on Friday the 13th even when it falls on the 20th of the month.


August12, 1976 Sense and Nonsense [Nechako Chronicle]

The scene: a living room with various sized people watching TV.  Dad, Mom, Big brother, Bigger brother, Borrowed brother and Small sister are lazily lolling in the sunshine filtering through the living room windows.

Enter: Aunt, Uncle, Small nephew and Very Small dog. Aunt: “Such a beautiful day! Such a shame to waste such an unusually nice weekend! Let us all go camping!

Interest is expressed in varying degrees ranging from immediate agreement by the brothers to lukewarm enthusiasm by Mom. Mom mentally counts diapers, camping utensils, food etc. Dad packs tent, blankets, foam mattresses, fishing gear, etc. Mom packs diapers, camping utensils, food, etc. Bigger brother digs worms.

The scene: The launching site for a fairly large boat and a smaller boat. Grampa has joined the group. Everyone is busily unloading a pickup truck and a car and placing pound after pound of paraphernalia in the fairly large boat. The ground is quite soft.

Dad: “If it rains we may have trouble driving out of here”. Aunt: “On such a beautiful day we should talk about rain!”

The scene: a sandy beach bordering a beautiful blue bay. Mom and Aunt are preparing dinner and alternately chasing Small sister and Very small dog. Small sister is fascinated by the water. Her only pair of shoes are already wet. Very small dog has a tendency to be underfoot. Both are small enough and cute enough to be forgivable.

After a succulent meal of wieners, beans and Freshie, the men and Small nephew succumb to the primitive urge to catch a fish. The women walk about in the sunshine watching the antics of Very small dog and Small sister. Borrowed brother and Big brother are very wet. Borrowed brother is the wettest as he is wearing all his clothing. Small sister amazes all by removing her wet shorts and piddling in the water. Could this be the secret in potty training her? Maybe mom should anchor the potty chair in the bathtub at home.

Grampa returns with a nice char. Much later the other fishermen return with 3 small trout. The trout have been flaunting themselves continuously but will not bite. Dad wonders if this means a change in the weather. Aunt flings a handful of sand at him.

Another succulent meal is served. This time it consists of beans and fish. Mom and Borrowed brother have submerged the hamburger and Uncle’s steak in a plastic bag in the lake – to keep it cool. At this time it is discovered the bag has a hole in it. Uncle cooks his water logged steak. Grampa decides to go home and rejoin the group in the morning. He leaves his sleeping bag behind. Big and Borrowed brothers don their dry clothing which consists of their bathing suits. The trees are littered with wet clothing.

The scene: the end of a perfect day. A campfire illuminates the happy faces of young people indulging in the fascinating game of throwing rocks in the water. Dad and Uncle periodically join in this game. A loon flies over the water. Mom: “Good, the loon is quiet. That means it won’t rain. Loons always know when it is going to rain”. Dad agrees with this statement. Aunt: “Of course it is not going to rain!”

The scene: It’s 5:30 in the morning. It is semi-dark in the tent. The soft snores from sleeping children, the lapping of the waves contrast with the staccato sound of raindrops on canvas. Mom and Dad leap from their beds, quickly gather up damp clothing and place all dry goods in plastic bags. Aunt and Uncle emerge from the cab of the boat where they have slept. A roaring campfire is built, coffee is drunk and eggs are eaten. The rain becomes a torrent.

Dad: “I believe we should break camp. It looks like an all day rain”. The children are awakened, bedding rolled up, food and utensils packed. Everyone is wearing winter coats and plastic garbage bags are used for hats and vests. The soggy tent is folded down. A loon flies over the water screaming loudly. Someone says a bad word. In the confusion the boat drifts away from shore. Uncle tears out of the bushes and leaps aboard. He is applauded wetly for his athletic feat.

Everything and everybody is sandwiched into the cab of the boat except for Uncle and Dad who are already so wet it doesn’t matter. The motor is “logy” this morning. The 8 miles drift by slowly. Mom hands Dad a lighted cigarette. His appreciation is dimmed as the cigarette quickly becomes too wet to smoke. The water is streaming off the mens’ hats and clothing. Uncle begins to sing. Aunt suggests that maybe the rain has soaked through layers of hat, skin and bone and into Uncle’s brain.

Upon reaching shore, Mom, Aunt, Nephew, Small sister and Small dog walk home, leaving the men and boys to unload the boat and un-stick the vehicles.

Scene: A living room full of various sized people lolling about watching TV. A roaring fire has been built in the heater and wet clothing has been hung up to dry. Enter Grampa smiling: “I thought of you guys this morning when I awoke in my nice warm bed in my nice dry house. He is immediately informed of the fact that all the bedding fared well except for his sleeping bag which became saturated when Borrowed brother rolled partially out of the tent in his sleep.


Jan 29, 1976 Sense and Nonsense (Nechako Chronicle)

In the past few years there has emerged a brand new kind of pollution. Actually it has been around for a long time, but is becoming more prevalent. It is language pollution. A spade is no longer a spade but is more likely to be called a “manual excavator” or some other such high falutin’ thing.

Some jobs have been upgraded recently, at least verbally. A garage mechanic now calls himself an “automotive internist”. A garbage collector is now a “sanitary engineer”. A flunky or cooks’ helper is labelled a “kitchen porter”. I suppose a housewife could be considered a “household coordinator”. A teacher could be an “education engineer” and a student an “education recipient”.

Bureaucratic officials have perfected the art of doubletalk or language pollution. The ability to say the least in the longest possible time is an asset in this day and age. Some political speeches communicate absolutely nothing to us ordinary people. Most of us feel we would have been more well-informed had we watched “Sesame Street” instead.

An article in the September 1968 Readers’ Digest explains the art of double-talk. A U.S. Public Health official has compiled a chart of key words which he calls the “Systematic Buzz Phrase Projector”. The chart consists of three columns composed of thirty “buzz words”. Any word in column one can be combined with any word in column two and column three to produce a phrase which has “that ring of decisive authority, which can be dropped into virtually any report” – to quote the Digest.

I picked out a few words (the smaller ones) at random from the chart. Here are some phrases I came up with: Functional policy mobility. Total third-generation capability. Balanced digital concept.  Optional organizational programming. Compatible reciprocal projection. They certainly sound as if they mean something important.

But what?? A fellow on the radio was just referring to an outhouse. He called it an “outdoor comfort station”. He should station himself on ours when it is cold outside. I am sure he would change the word “comfort” to something else.

I have invented a few more gobbledegoop phrases to add to our language pollution crisis. Small child: mobile monitored organism. Baby: sedentary monitored organism. Dog or Cat: compatible non-human cohabitant.

I can hear our mobile monitored organism exercising her vocalization capacities. This household co-ordinator must become a sanitation inspector and then place her on her mini-comfort station. Progressive posterioral programming would hopefully result in drastically limited laundermatic activities.


Sense and Nonsense [circa 1975]

I have read that in the fish kingdom they do not have dental problems as we humans do. At least some of the larger fish do not.

There are little fish swimming about which are appropriately named “Cleaner Fish.”All the big fish has to do is open his mouth and the Cleaner Fish swims in to clean his teeth (No appointment necessary.) This underwater dentist does a meticulous job, and as payment he does not get eaten.

However, just as in the human world there are unscrupulous types swimming about. These phony little fish look just like Cleaner Fish and the big fish is fooled. All they are interested in is putting “the bite” on the unsuspecting victim. They quickly swim in, take a bite out of the larger fish’s gums, and leave

I went to a dentist like that one time, only it was my wallet that had the bite put on it. His fillings were more durable than Mission Impossible’s instructions, but not much! They self-destructed within three months. My teeth which formerly were full of little unfilled holes, were now full of large empty holes. The dentist had left town and, as far as I know has never been seen since.

Last week I visited a dentist and finally had the last of my bottom teeth extracted. Hubby is also spending a lot of time in the dentist’s chair. In our house the menu is soup – three times a day! I am thinking of writing a cookbook for a sadly neglected group of gustatory underprivileged – a composition of gumbo goodies for toothless people. So far I have invented two recipes: “Egg Chew None” and “Turkey through a straw.”

My dentist has already consented to my leaving 50 copies in his office. These would replace the 1958 Ladies Home Journals and the 1962 Fish And Stream magazines his waiting room is stacked with. Nobody reads these magazines anyway. They thumb them a lot, but my definition of a truly relaxed person would be someone who can really get into a magazine in a dentist’s waiting room!

I have never before realised how many words in the English language contain pitfalls of pronunciation for those with less than the allotted 32 teeth. The word “appreciate” is a particularly hazardous one. The other day I took three runs at it on the phone. I finally mumbled “thankth” and hung up. My called undoubtedly thought the cocktail hour in our house was a bit early that day!

There are times when I have fervently wished that I had been born a fish!


June 1974 Sense and Nonsense – AN EARLY MORNING WALK

One has to get up early in the morning lately to catch a glimpse of the sun. At 5:30 in the morning it has been shining beautifully. Anyone rising later than 6:30 has to be under the impression that the weather has been lousy. I went for a walk very early one morning last week. The sun was brilliant, not a cloud in the sky. It is strange how noisy the world is at that hour of the day. No people noises at all though. However, the ducks were all quacking at full volume. They sounded as if they were having a contest to decide who was the loudest quacker among them. The little birds were chirping like crazy, almost frantically. I suppose they knew it was going to rain in an hour or so, and nobody likes chirping in the rain.

The run-off streams which normally gurgle softly, seemed to be gargling instead. Even the slight breezes were noisy .Some grouse were drumming somewhere and they were definitely talented, although the beat was a little monotonous. I and the dog both felt as though we were intruding at first but everything ignored us so we felt better. Just as we arrived back at our driveway a black cloud appeared in the sky and began to stretch itself in all directions. It was a good time to crawl back into bed and sleep.


Apr 24/75 Sense and Nonsense [Nechako Chronicle]

Everyone is interested in dieting these days. Fat people collect diet plans like little boys collect hockey cards. Medium-sized people instantly cut out the goodies the minute they gain a pound. Even skinny people worry that they too may become fat overnight. Everyone agrees that being fat is Un-Canadian. To top it off we are told that at our best we are still in poor shape compared to most sixty-year-old Swedes.

There are thousands of diet plans available and I have tried quite a few of them. One of them is drinking a horrible tasting potion three times a day. If you can get the stuff down I imagine it would ruin your appetite for food. Another plan is eating delicious tasting candies along with a cup of coffee fifteen minutes before every meal. This does cut the appetite at mealtimes, but does nothing for the in-between meal hunger pangs. I found myself drinking coffee and eating these candies at fifteen minute intervals throughout the whole day. I developed dental cavities and caffeine nerves but never lost an ounce. A third plan is drinking a formula which tastes vaguely like a chocolate malted milkshake. With this idea you give up food entirely and drink all your meals. The only trouble with this plan is that you never use your teeth at all. I believe that people have a need to chew. I found myself gnashing my teeth constantly and when I unconsciously ate half a cigarette I threw the remaining formula out.

One diet that has been making the rounds for years is the grapefruit and egg diet. It is supposed to be scientifically fool-proof. The combination of the eggs with the grapefruit and other fruits and vegetables is supposed to form a chemical reaction in your tissues and cause the fat to literally melt away. This is not true. I tried it for one week and actually gained weight on it. I only cheated a little, adding salt and pepper to my eggs. I have been told since that salt is very fattening but I cannot believe six grains a day can be that potent. Anyone who can eat eggs without any salt cannot be overweight in my estimation. They must be suffering from near terminal starvation.

A friend told me of a real miracle diet. Apparently the movie stars use it whenever they want to lose 10 pounds in 4 days. It consists simply of sherry (dry) for breakfast, steak and sherry for lunch and just plain sherry for supper. I tried it once for one meal (breakfast) I can’t remember lunch too well but later I was so badly hung-over I couldn’t even down my suppertime sherry. If one could last the four days they would probably lose weight all right, but on the fifth day they might wake up in a sanatorium somewhere wondering where all the pink elephants came from.

I believe we should reverse our opinions of ourselves as fat Canadians. We should enjoy our own images. We should smile at our reflections in the mirror and whistle while we waddle. Whenever a sixty-year-old Swede passes us on the street we should wave gaily and reflect that possibly in 20 years time we may be in much better shape than he.


The Good Old Days [Fraser Lake Bugle, 1981/82]

Interview with Harvey MacDonald

The Bluenose was built during the 1920s by two Swedes, Axle and Pete, for Bert Black and Dan Webster, two of the original partners in what would later be known as Fraser Lake Sawmills. (Merle Hartman was also an early partner in the sawmill)

In the spring of 1928 Harvey MacDonald “went down to the mill” after a winter of cutting ties.

“I started piling lumber and they wanted someone on the Bluenose. Bill Leslie was running it then. Bert Black said, “By Golly, I got just the man for you…

“I was on the Bluenose for two years. There was Bill Leslie and I, the first time I was on it. Then there was a couple of years between. The last time I was on it was with Hyrum Christensen.

The Bluenose was built for the purpose of towing logs on Fraser Lake. They were logging along Fraser Lake at that time. They’d haul logs from Simon Bay and all through there. Webster and Black were steam engineers from the days when steam was the thing. In one sense they (the sternwheelers) were good because they had lots of power… but you had to steer them with the towline. There was no prop and the rudder was ahead. There were notches cut in the tow post. To steer the boat, you had to use a peevie to pull the tow rope over to another notch.

The Bluenose was thirty feet long but the big boiler took up a lot of room. There were two engines at the back turning the paddle-wheels. When you towed, you had to be feeding the boiler all the time to keep the steam up. I was the strongest so I guess that’s why I got the hardest work as I had to do that. It was a woodburner. Sometimes we ran out of wood and we’d have to go ashore and throw out a gangplank; get a crosscut saw and saw some wood.

Bill Leslie and I towed from the end of the lake…and from the river. (The annual log drive on the Stellako River transferred logs which had been cut along Francois Lake downstream to where the river ebbed into Fraser Lake. From there, the logs were put into booms to be towed across the lake. When the wind “blew from the east” it would sometimes take many days to tow a boom the relatively short distance to the sawmill.)

One time there was a boom across the river up past the bridge. When Bill and I got to the boom, we had to anchor the boat… there was about ten or twelve feet of water. At the end of the Bluenose there was a ramp way out and you had to get the anchor and kind of swing it out. I was feeding the boiler when I heard Bill yell so I shut the boiler down. I went over and here come the bubbles and pretty soon up comes Bill. I got the pike-pole and fished him out. He had these waders on – full of water!

He said, “You know, I hung onto that damned anchor until it hit bottom! I just couldn’t let go!”

In later years, the Bluenose was replaced by a tugboat with a diesel “Union” motor. It was named the North Star…Ivan Ray was the second mate with me on the North Star. Ivan was scared of water…We used to pull logs from the east end of the lake (Fraser Lake) and when you’re towing, right in the middle of the lake is the best place to go…I’d give him the wheel to take four hours or so of sleep and here he’d be up on the shore…

I’d say, “What in Hell are you doing way over here?”

He’d answer, “When this thing drags its belly on the ground, then I know I can walk ashore!”

We had fun, though. Ivan was full of “hellery” One time we were anchored up on Beaumont Beach getting ready to tow a boom. Ivan had a frying pan. He bent the handle and dug up a whole potful of these clams. He cleaned them all nice and cooked them with some bacon… he ate some and said, “I think it’s poison!”

After about an hour or so, I saw that he didn’t get sick so I had some and by golly, it was darned good!


The Good Old Days by Doris Ray [Fraser Lake Bugle 1981-82)

For thirteen seasons Harvey MacDonald was the foreman of Fraser Lake Sawmill’s annual log drive on the Stellako River. The logs were floated from Francois Lake down the six mile, rough and tumble waterway to where the river flows calmly and sedately into the west end of Fraser Lake. Harvey remembers there was usually only one drive (in June when the river was high) although “sometimes there were two.”

The longest drive that Harvey was on took about two weeks. “On one drive, we got it down to nine days. It was a big drive but the water was just right…” This is Harvey’s story.

“There were two Hanson-Stake boys (Hans Hanson-Stake and Bror Hanson-Stake) and their dad. They were with me most of the times. They were good river men. The old man took the cook boat and did the cooking; he was good with a riverboat too. He took our bedrolls in the cook boat for when we camped down the river…. Lloyd Ray was with me pretty nearly every time.

It was pretty tough and you worked long hours. You’d buy a pair of corked boots and they were only good for one drive. You’d wear the corks right out!

The logs would jam up. There are three sets of rapids down the river where the logs always jammed. Gunning Rapids are almost a mile long….they’d bank up along a corner of the river or if there was a big rock.

When you came to a jam, you had to break it in the front and it was dangerous. When you got the key log, everything went! You had to head for the back end because you’d get ground up in front.

The center jams were the worst. Lloyd and I would usually break those. We’d take a boat (rowboat) out there and put it at the back of the jam. Once it started going, we’d run for the boat or, sometimes, we’d jump in the river and swim ashore.

You didn’t need a boat for the wing jams because they were out on the shore. You just took the peevies and rolled the right log out. When it went, everybody had to get off the logs because it went – Swoosh! The logs would go up sometimes end for end!

Sometimes they’d jam up clear across the river and there’d be a lake behind. In front, there would hardly be any water at all. The only way you could get that loose was to bust them loose on the bank.

We’d have to dig a hole through the logs to let the water through. If you let it back up too much, your logs would be out in the bush.

The water was cold at that time of the year. When we started out in the mornings, everybody would be walking gingerly over the logs. They’d try and keep dry as long as they could but they wouldn’t get warm until they fell in. Once you get into the water, you’re all right. I used to walk right in and the Hanson boys did too….

An old seafaring man named Henry Bellack used to live near Glenannan on Francois Lake. One day he came up to me and said, “How about me getting a job there?”

I said, “Can you handle a boat?”

He said, “I’ve been a seafaring man all my life. I rode all over the Pacific Ocean and that little spit of water….!”  (referring derisively to the Stellako River) He apologized and I said, “Okay, you give it a try.”

Well, he pretty nearly drowned in the boat in Carlson’s Rapids. Lloyd was with him and kept telling him to get out in the middle. (There was debris floating closer to shore.) He lost the boat, the peevies and all the rigging; pretty near lost Henry too.

When the boat capsized Lloyd grabbed onto a big willow. Henry grabbed one too but it was one of those willows that float up and down above and below the water.

Lloyd went down the river to where Henry was. Henry had a big, shiny head and he smoked a pipe. Always had a pipe in his mouth. Lloyd said, “I could see what looked like a fish coming up; his head would come up and go back down.” Lloyd grabbed him and pulled him ashore….he still had his pipe in his mouth – never lost his pipe.

One time there was a dead horse caught up in the drive. Felix Johansson was there and he had a queasy stomach. I’d send a bunch of guys on one side of the river and another bunch on the other. Poor Felix, he always ran into the jam where this horse was.

“I’d say, ‘Which side do you want?’ and it seemed he always picked the wrong side!”

Lloyd got his legs caught between the logs on one drive we were on. We’d broke up this jam and he was behind me… I was fast on my feet – faster than Lloyd was. He yelled something and I looked back and he’d slipped between the logs. They were going, you know! I grabbed the double bitted axe from the bow of the boat in case I had to cut his legs off. He got out just before I got there. I would have cut a leg off, too…If he’d have gotten pulled under, he would have been a goner anyway.

Lloyd said later, “I wonder if you would have?”

I said, “Before you went down I would have cut your leg off. That way I’d save part of you anyways!”

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