Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

Archive for February, 2018

WOK WITH (STEVEN) YAN

1980  Sense and Nonsense

A few weeks ago I added a utensil to my collection of kitchen gizmos that has completely changed my way of life.

I allowed myself to be persuaded that “wokking” is the only way to cook. An Oriental “Galloping Gourmet” on television dazzled me with his one-liners (both on and off his apron) and his knack with chopsticks and cleaver.

He unleashed a primitive urge in me to buy everything in sight at the Chinese cuisine section in the grocery store. I bought a wok and all the utensils that slice, stir and strain. I also bought a colourful selection of sauces, oils and other “Chinesey” condiments.

I proudly brought my loot home and stacked it in the kitchen. First of all, the wok wouldn’t fit neatly in any of my cupboards. It was too big to fit in with the round pots and too round to fit in with the square pans. I ended up storing it in the oven.

My wok came unaccompanied by any instructions whatever. It did however come with a lid and what I assumed to be an added bonus – a stand for an electric stove. Since I have a gas stove I decided in my ignorance, that no stand at all was necessary.

When I placed my shiny new wok on the naked flame, an ugly blue discoloration resulted, which neither Mr. Clean nor Mrs. Ray could remove. My first wokful of stir-fried spinach removed the stain in less than five minutes. My mother and Popeye the sailor-man would have been proud of the power in that placid looking vegetable!

Luckily I have always hated spinach – stir fried or otherwise!

My recipe book with the smiling face of our television host on the cover has helped me become a semi-expert on the art of preparing Chinese food. Now, instead of opening a can or defrosting a package of frozen vegetables, I prepare them the nutritious way

I rise early, before dawn, and raid the garden. I drive miles to buy goodies such as mushrooms, bean sprouts and bok choy. I wash, chop, stir-fry and strain. Sometimes I package the fourteen vegetables and meats in neat little wrappers and deep-fry them.

I grate, marinate and wait, and if I’m lucky my concoctions are ready to serve for the big meal of the day.

I originally bought the wok with the thought in mind that I could con our youngest child into “liking vegetables.” Deep down I knew that there was no way this could happen. I have a theory that there are only two kinds of people in this world – those who love vegetables and those who don’t.

Most of the children I have known were in the latter category.

I used to bribe, cajole and sometimes threaten my older children into eating their vegetables. To this day they distrust anything that is green (unless it is money) I scored 100% wipe-out in past parental nutrition.

Therefore, with our youngest child I am experimenting with a totally different technique. Trickery! I sneak vegetables into cookies and chop them up so fine they are almost invisible into soups and stews. I lie a lot. When she asks,“Are there any onions in this?” I hem and haw and make noises that sound like “no.”

Last year I had the help of her kindergarten teacher. Our daughter would come home on “snack day” extolling the virtues of celery sticks and alfalfa sprouts. However, Kindergarten only last for one year and the latest bag of alfalfa sprouts is growing a wonderful crop of cattle fodder in the refrigerator.

There is no way our daughter will eat Chinese food, with or without plum sauce. The vegetables are plainly visible – big, healthy looking and green! When I wok it is also necessary to whip up something “western” for her – such as a peanut butter sandwich.

Actually I do enjoy cooking the Chinese way and I have discovered a bonus use for my wok. It is the greatest thing for rising bread dough! I place the rounded bottom on a stove burner and the heat from the pilot light is enough to warm the dough easily and quickly.

Steven Yan, do you “wok” your bread? How about putting that on your apron!!

SEE THE PRETTY LADY!

(August 1979) Sense and Nonsense

See the pretty lady. She is immaculate as she rests in her cool, spotless home. The pretty lady is very frail. She does not walk her block a day as they tell her to do on television. She is too tired.

Her phone rings. It is the blue phone and it only rings once a year. It is the Huckleberry Hotline! The pretty lady’s eyes light up. They gleam with maniacal delight. See her frenzied movements when she hangs up the phone,

Can you spot the pretty lady? She is the one climbing out of the dusty blue pick-up truck. It is a very good truck. It must be because it has just forded streams, bounced over boulders and climbed steep inclines. It is now parked below the huckleberry hill.

See all the people climbing up the hill. A fat lady has a preschooler under one arm and an ice-cream pail hooked over the other. She is good at climbing over windfalls. The pretty lady is faster though. She has just knocked over a hornet’s nest. The pretty lady is the first to reach the top of the hill.

Can you feel the heat? It is hot on the huckleberry hill! Everyone is perspiring except the fat lady’s little boy. He is busy eating huckleberries, leaves and all. His hands, face, ears and hair are blue. His mother has just tripped over a log and spilled all her huckleberries. The fat lady says a word that her little boy is not allowed to say,

See the pretty lady pick huckleberries! She is the fasted picker on the hill. Watch her crawl over and under windfalls. See her reach for a branch as she stumbles. The branch is part of a thorn bush. The pretty lady does not spill her berries when she falls. She is holding the handle of the ice-cream pail between her teeth. The pretty lady is smart!

The hackberry pickers are thirsty. Someone has carted a gallon of water up the hill. He is very popular! The pretty lady does not drink any water. She has just discovered a super patch of huckleberries!

The pretty lady realises someone else is sharing her patch. He is overdressed for such a hot day. He is wearing a fur coat! He is a sloppy eater and a poor conversationalist. All he does is growl.

See all the people hurry down the hill. Soon there is no one left up there except the sloppy picker in the fur coat. The pretty lady is upset – that patch would have filled her ice-cream pail to overflowing!

The pretty lady is no longer pretty as she enters her immaculate home. She is dirty and covered with fireweed fuzz. She has insect bites and scratches. Her nose is sunburnt. She is limping and her deodorant has let her down….

She is happy. Tomorrow she will pick more huckleberries!

CALL OF THE NORTH- SUMMER 1980

October 9/80 Sense and Nonsense

I wonder if other people can promptly answer as to whether or not they had a good time on holidays? I never can. At least not until months after we have returned home. I am noncommittal until all real and imagined injuries to my nerves, to our vehicle and to our bank account are completely healed. By that time nobody seems to be interested anymore.

For some reason we always seem to be heading north on holidays. (Surely the spell of the Yukon cannot be that strong?) Last time Leon and I were accompanied only by Fern, our small daughter. This time teenage son, Bruce, was also able to come with us. Son-in-law Darwin, daughter Cathy and their two little ones would follow along in their new pick-up truck and camper.

We decided to accept an invitation to visit some cousins and Grampa L. who were camping and fishing at Stewart, B.C. during the long Canada Day week-end. The gorgeous scenery, including a huge blue glacier close to the road, would be well worth the extra miles. Perhaps after reading my journal someone will answer the question that is still haunting me. Did I have a good time on holidays?

Saturday: (June 28) Big rush to get going. Leon had completed building the camper. Bruce, Fern and I painted it. I finished painting the bottom bunk quite late last night and this morning it was still tacky. (Had to hurriedly Mactac over it!) First wildlife – a baby groundhog two miles from home. Leon had to boot it off the pavement to discourage its suicidal tendencies. (It lacked gratitude and tried to bite the boot that may have saved it’s life).

Stopped at a high point above the Bulkley where the gray water flowed far below. Cathy, with Leon’s support, leaned over and took a picture of the dizzying depths below.

We finally found the Kitwanga turn-off after I had almost given up on it. Lo and behold, a beautiful stretch of pavement greeted us; but not for long. The road rapidly deteriorated into a rough, winding, and in some places newly-constructed path. We finally decided to camp at a creek at Mile 34. Second wildlife – a porcupine slowly ambled up the creek away from us.

Sunday – Friday: This morning (Friday) we finally left Stewart, B.C. (Note: On Monday, June 30, 1980 the bridge over the wide, swift-rolling Bear River – the only land route out of Stewart, was totally destroyed by fire.)  Arson was suspected. Around 2,000 tourists were in town that week-end celebrating Canada Day, American Independence Day, and Stewart’s Golden Anniversary. Hyder, Alaska was also isolated by the fire. (“Downtown” Hyder consists of three saloons and a souvenir shop.) The Bailey bridge completion was delayed by the hour from noon yesterday to midnight last night. Impatient tourists were lined up on the road at nine last night – when last we checked. Others were in formation at the campgrounds.

We had arrived in Stewart on Sunday, intending on camping overnight, visiting and partaking of the “crab sandwiches” Grampa L. had insisted he would serve us. We planned on leaving Monday morning but got a late start because Cathy and I insisted on being “Hyderized” (On a glass of Molson’s Canadian – orange juice for the kids). As it was, we were too late.

Comments on our five days in Stewart: One member of our party found herself paying double-digit duty on a few souvenir items from Hyder. (It is easy to forget that Hyder is in a foreign country.) The killer whales had frightened the salmon away and the red tide rendered the mussels poisonous. The ugly fish someone caught was well photographed. (Could his relatives have picked Grampa’s soup-bone crab bait clean – even to the marrow?)

Darwin after bridge burning: “Now I know how an animal on a game farm feels – there’s room to run around, but no place to go!”

Me: “We should write ‘Help’ on one of those balloons that sailed over the mountains.” (From float in Canada Day parade)

Cathy: “How about S.O.S. for Stranded On Stewart!”

Sign on Dease Lake’s float in parade: “Arctic – Pacific Divide” (in part) “…where the waters were undecided whether to flow DEASE way or DAT way…”

It was nice to see Cousin M’s brother and family who flew in from “the outside world.”

Woman on phone in hotel lobby: “Mother – don’t laugh. Mother please stop laughing … It’s not funny! Just feed my fish at home and I’ll drown my sorrows to-night in Hyder!”

Cousin M. overheard a young fellow on phone in the bar. “I’m not sh____ you, boss! I really can’t get back to work. You’re going to pay me for my Stat. aren’t you? Why not? It’s a… It’s an Act of God… Isn’t it?”

Cousin R’s song: (Sung alongside campfire in a plaintive, bluesy, tone of voice) “Build another bridge ‘cross the river, ‘Cause the old one ain’t no good at all! If they don’t build a bridge across the river, Oh Lord, we could all be here ’til Fall!…”

The biggest beef, especially among the locals, seemed to be the lack of fresh milk in town. Apparently even the cafes were dry. Everyone’s spirits held up well until the morning after it rained (Wednesday morning?) The two happy guys in the brown pickup near the popular “rest room” spot were the picture of utter desolation that morn. Side by side, arms folded, leaning against the wet railing, they silently contemplated the wet grass.

We women re-ally “swung” in Stewart one afternoon – on the playground swings. Even Grampa “swung” that day. We also spent a lot of time visiting the museum, browsing through some interesting shops and peering at old buildings. Stewart has some dandy old buildings. Every day we walked down to the hotel to check the bulletin board for progress reports on putting in a new bridge across the river.

Saturday (July 5) Attempting to write from back of camper on bumpy road. (Near Cassiar junction on Highway 37) It’s pouring rain and we just finished lunch near a sparkling river before it started in. We got groceries etc. at Dease Lake this morning after camping last night by the Stikine river. Ugly water but beautiful sand alongside for the kids to play. Lots of interesting rocks. Wish I knew what jade looks like for sure? Cathy and Bruce collected rocks and Cathy found some heavy black sand that sparkled. Later they explored the old house across the river that turned out to be inhabitated – by a rabbit. (Two eyes glowed mysteriously in the dark!)

This morning the kids picked wild strawberries to eat with their pancakes for breakfast. Later we stopped at Rabid Grizzly campgrounds and were intimidated – not by the name, but by the bugs! After that the road gradually deteriorated. We went through a section of heavy oil that splattered the trucks badly. Road was rough past Good Hope until the Yukon border, where it instantly took a turn for the better. Saw a bear beetling off into the toolies after a car passed us at an unsafe speed just outside of Upper Liard. We ended up camping at a commercial spot 2 miles south of Watson Lake, which was well worth the four dollars. Showers, food, gas, fishing licences, laundromat and Varsol.

We promptly used the latter on the trucks, and with soap and water managed to remove most of the black oil. It had poured rain up the Cassiar (our truck had a wake behind it!) but in the evening at camp it suddenly cleared up and was nice. Can’t get over all that daylight – at 11 o’clock it seemed like eight at home. Forced myself to go to bed at eleven. Earlier, Cathy had found herself “misunderstood” by a young fellow who works in the store. “Mosquito dope” must be strictly a B.C. colloquialism – at least he had never heard of it in reference to bug repellant. He thought she wanted some new kind of marijuana!

Sunday: Did laundry and headed up the Robert Campbell Highway. Stopped at Lucky Creek. No fish would bite (seriously). Had lunch at Frances Lake. Country is swamp spruce and tamarack bordered by fireweed (a redder colour than ours.) Camped at Finlayson River where Leon caught two baby grayling. Tyler (small grandson) fell in the river and hurt his feelings (mostly.) He had been indulging in his favourite pastime – throwing rocks into the river, and he forgot to let go!

Monday: Raining. Ate breakfast under tarp. Coffee for us. Kids ate cereal in camper. The Robert Campbell highway must have been a chore to build. It is straight as a die much of the way, and all fill through the two hundred miles or so of swamp country, broken only by some beautiful lakes and rivers.

I especially liked the Pelly River, our lunch stop. Saw elderly couple there who had followed us up from Frances Lake and recognized us. They had a nicely kept up, older, camperized International truck. The river was icy but Jennel (small granddaughter), Fern and I found warm puddles in the rocks to wade in. We passed Beautiful creek (the cruddiest looking of all the many creeks in the area). Also Bruce creek. (Fern giggled for miles over that name.)

As we neared Faro we entered gopher country! Bare hills pitted with gopher-holes everywhere. Faro would be prettier with the mountains surrounding it and the Pelly River flowing through it, if it wasn’t for the burn on the hills directly above town. Apparently, it happened the year the town was first built; 1969, and the fire took 70 new houses with it.

After leaving Faro we checked various campsites. One on the outskirts of Faro on a lake, (swampy) stocked with rainbow trout. Decided to go 20 miles down the road to Drury Creek. Remembered we needed milk. Forgot to buy it in little trailer court store in Faro.

We stopped at Little Salmon Cafe for coffee and got “coffee cream” to go. Drove through a lot of smoke along Little Salmon Lake to the campground at west end of lake. The forest fire was across the lake, directly behind a hill. (Had been burning since a week Saturday. It was not being fought as it was not considered a “priority fire”)

Leon and Darwin put boat in the lake, but no fish. The elderly campground attendant told us later (over coffee) that there were grayling in the creek but few in the lake. He said the R.C. highway had been bad until last week when they had fixed it for a big derby on Frances Lake. His lady friend had won the prize for the biggest fish – a mere twenty-seven pounder. He said that was surprising as they usually are much bigger. (Thirty to forty pound lake trout.) Chinook salmon spawn up the Yukon rivers and there are pike and grayling in most of the lakes and rivers. (Our friendly campground attendant wondered how Leon managed to catch such small grayling as he did in the Finlayson yesterday.)

The old guy zipped home on his motorbike and as we were heading for bed he brought back a bag of frozen grayling. Our friends in the International camper are also camped here. Tuesday: Beautiful day. Ate pancakes and grayling for breakfast. The road is good below Faro – much better than the narrow gravel road we were on yesterday. Stopped at a high point above our first glimpse of the Yukon River. We took photographs while Leon rolled rocks down into Pierre Burton’s favourite river. Stopped at a store near Carmacks and bought groceries for to-day. Some things are cheaper than back home. (Large plastic tarp – 22 dollars, no tax)

Had lunch at Lake Labarge. It is a beautiful lake surrounded by storybook – pastel coloured hills and mountains, with sandy beaches between the huge rocks. We passed many beautiful lakes, such as Fox Lake. The country is prettier above Whitehorse than around Faro. Still plenty of gophers (ground squirrels). Also seagulls everywhere, cleaning up on the highway casualties.

Cathy and Darwin have lost another headlight, so now they have none. Takinni Hotsprings was disappointing. Should have realized it would be commercialized and crowded so close to Whitehorse. Problem of where to camp? We had paid our 10 dollars for access to all the nicely-maintained Yukon government campgrounds. There were two, but they were 10 and 11 miles from Whitehorse. We decided on a commercial one.

Robert Service Campground is located on the south access road to Whitehorse – A real rip-off, no table, no firewood and crowded, not-that-clean facilities. The large campground was packed solid. Some vehicles had been “Cassiarized” with thick black oil. After 10 at night, I walked down the river with Cathy and Bruce (and cameras). Then, back and up the Yukon looking for places to take pictures. Ended up walking all the way to Whitehorse and downtown. (Not that big a town) Bruce and Cathy took pictures of a sternwheeler at 11:15 at night. (Sun went down at 11) Still lots of daylight. People wandering around – kids on bikes etc. Bought a “Whitehorse Star” and read it on the way back to camp at midnight.

We peered at an old log building which was referred to as a “log skyscraper”. The two storeys were small and appeared to be “built up on stilts,” as Cathy described the odd architecture. Somebody was obviously living downstairs but the building was a public attraction anyway. A nearby sign read “Drinking Not Permitted On Premises – Drink At Own Risk” (A recent law had enforced the curtailment of public drinking on the streets of Whitehorse.)

I noticed one good vegetable garden with very healthy vegetables. Wonder where they found the topsoil? In Faro, apparently, it costs 40 dollars to plant a tree. At midnight at the campgrounds, there was still a lineup at the ladies’ showers and also at the mens’ restroom. Cathy said one impatient mother let her 12 year old son into the ladies room.

Bruce rolled up in Darwin’s tarp and a blanket to sleep under the stars.

Wednesday: Bruce woke us up early in the morning. It was raining and he had been sleeping in a puddle of water. Drove to shopping centre in Whitehorse – and first to the Laundromat. It was filled with tourists and the place was big and buzzing. I managed to warm up our wet clothes before all the dryers went on the blink. Packed up wet clothes and bought groceries, clothesline and clothespins. Prices not too bad (cheaper than Stewart) except for fruit and vegetables. (Fresh Mac. apples 1.19 a pound)

Up the road we passed a narrow creek bed entitled “George’s Gorge”. (Is there a name for word phrases that contain sounds which are interchangeable? That is, and still make sense?) George’s Gorge – Gorgeous George. I remember Ted Baxter’s goof on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. He began his newscast with, “…a whitehouse source revealed”; tripped over his tongue and the crucial words came out as ”Whitehorse souse ” instead!)

A few miles past Teslin, Darwin abruptly pulled off the road. When we stopped beside him, he touched his side window and his hand went right through it. A jeep had passed him and flung a rock. The glass was completely cobwebbed and fell off like ice crystals. He already had a cracked windshield and this morning, in Whitehorse, had paid 27 dollars for a new headlight. We found some plastic and tape. Leon and Darwin patched up the window as best as they could. We ended up camping at our old stamping grounds (in 1977) – Rancheria. The wind was still blowing as it did back then. (I asked the manager of the road stop next door if the wind “always” blew up there. He said “No!” – a trifle too defiantly – didn’t recognize us naturally and I didn’t press the issue)

We built a roaring campfire and the kids played down in the sand. Fern discovered some gopher holes and spotted a rabbit almost in camp. She put out some lettuce leaves for him and watched closely before having to go to bed. In the morning the lettuce was gone. We strung up the clothesline and dried some clothes in the wind despite the fact that it spitted rain at times and was cold.

Thursday: Darwin paid 1.98 a gallon for gas at Rancheria. I bought one case of beer and one case of pop and received 40 cents back from a 20 dollar bill. Had lunch at Boya Lake campground. (Seemed like miles from the road – one of these days I will stop having ideas!) Darwin carved small white masks for the little girls and left a large ugly one on tree to guard our old picnic table. (Made them from Bruce’s second foam plastic cooler casualty of trip. He had stood up in back of camper as Leon made a sharp turn into campsite and fell on the fragile thing!)

The oiled stretch of road near Cassiar wasn’t that ugly this time. Leon caught his limit in grayling right away – lots of pictures. Camped 4 miles south of Dease Lake. Had a heck of a time finding a place to camp. Cooked Leon’s fish and Whitehorse chicken. At present Cathy is trying to make coffee at 11p.m. over few remaining hibachi coals.

Leon, Darwin, Cathy and Bruce made willow whistles. Bruce’s didn’t work. Darwin made bow and arrow – didn’t work.

Friday night: We are definitely becoming bushed. As Leon said, “Last night it was willow whistles, tonight its rocks!” Darwin hurled at least four rocks at a bug before he decided that it was definitely dead. Then he and Bruce threw rocks at a huge culvert across the road. Sounded like cannons going off! To-night I immersed the Freshie jug full of “good old-fashioned oatmeal” that I bought in Stewart, in the dishwater. It immediately turned into “good old-fashioned soap paste.” Mystery: who took it out of Cathy’s camper and put it with the dirty dishes?

It was hot to-day- first time for days. Too hot and dusty really. Everyone giggled when we bypassed the Stewart road and for some reason no one wanted to go there

TELEVISION COMMERCIAL-LAND

June 24, 1976 Sense and Nonsense

Yesterday was a bad day. It started out like any other day, the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. and I reluctantly rolled out of bed. I stumbled into the bathroom, squeezed toothpaste onto my toothbrush, and glanced into the mirror.

Ugh! 60% more cavities! The drugstore was all out of “Quest” last time I shopped. That darn stock-boy had ignored Mr. Badwin’s advice again.

My deodorant was the old fashioned spray kind too. The drugstore was all out of the roll-on which prevents wetness as well as providing all day deodorant protection. Oh well, maybe my new soap “Scottish Fall” with its layers of scented deodorant would do the job.

Into the kitchen – the morning noises were already giving me a headache. The horses, ducks and chickens were serenading the sunrise. When I poured milk on my cereal the “crack, popple and snap” almost drove me out of my mind.

I reached for the adult headache remedy. It wasn’t even recommended for children.

Then I remembered – my son had taken the last one last night. He had suffered a severe blow to the head when a huge gelatinous mass fell from the topmost branch of our Jello tree. This summer with all the rain, the fruit and vegetable crops were tending to reach gigantic proportions.

I heated water for coffee; then realized someone was knocking at the door. This good-looking man with a Spanish accent reached for the jar of instant coffee in my hand. Promising he would bring it back in a week, he left. Thank goodness my neighbour, who dislikes instant coffee, had brought her own pound of real coffee last time she visited.

I looked in the cupboard – 7 pounds of coffee. That meant I had seven percolators around here somewhere too. She always brought her own percolator as well.

Time to start in on the dishes; this took up most of the morning as our small daughter insisted on playing in the bubbles like the little girl on T.V. is allowed to do.

Rats! I forgot to remove my “Dimex” watch. The crystal was coated with dishwater, coffee grounds and bubbles. How about that- ten minutes to two and still ticking! The only trouble was the time was supposed to be 11:30. All those bubbles must have lubricated the insides and speeded up the mechanism.

I must wash my grimy floor! I used up the last drop of “Mr. Gleam” when a large scantily attired fellow appeared from somewhere and handed me a can of peas. When he realized what I was doing, he blushed profusely, which contrasted nicely with his bright green complexion.

“Sorry, I’ve been doing the peas commercial for so long I forgot my new job. Guess my makeup is wrong too,” he added. “Can I use your bathroom to shower and change?”

“You don’t happen to have any of that new dandruff shampoo do you? I’m supposed to be bald for this job as well”.

Time to shop! As I wheeled my cart down the aisle I was stopped by a loud-talking man holding two boxes of detergent. He suggested I trade my box of “Hide” for his two boxes of Brand X. When I agreed he scowled, then opened his boxes, removing the towels before I could stop him. Oh well, two half boxes equal one whole one so I wasn’t out any.

Outside the store my daughter screamed when the “Fool Aid” monster tried to give her a glass of flavored water. When Donald MacDongal danced around the corner, she became hysterical. There ought to be a law against monsters running around loose!

Home, and barely enough time to make supper; luckily I had some of that rice that was ready in five minutes. Thank goodness it didn’t take longer. My arm was tired enough from holding my fingers up in that position for that length of time!

I had that can of peas “Mr. Gleam” has given me and my son had been pestering me for some “Ache and Break”. Seems we hadn’t had any for two weeks.

My husband complained that he didn’t like “Ache and Break”. He protested loudly that he much preferred chicken. The dog whined when I placed his bowl on the floor. He had wanted to go out to dinner tonight and eat in the restaurant where they serve “Sop Poise” dog food.

I whipped up some “Cream Drip” for dessert and enjoyed the delighted looks on my family’s faces. “Mmm, tastes like you just made it – yesterday”, complimented my son.

“But I made it today!” I protested weakly as I reached for the aspirins. After all, that’s the way most Canadians handle a headache.

 

WARM WINTER (circa 1979)

Sense and Nonsense

This had been a most unusual winter. The mild temperatures and low snow levels have pleased everyone except the skiers and some other winter sports enthusiasts.

There are some who are regarding the weather with suspicion. They worry that we will eventually have to pay for our comfort. They pessimistically predict that it will probably be subtracted from our quota of fun in the sun next summer.

I prefer to believe that the warm temperatures have been a just reward. We already have had our share of crummy summers and just two winters ago we suffered through some of the longest cold spells on record. I believe that we actually deserve this winter!

The meteorologists are saying that the weather has had a “summer pattern” to it. I remember one winter, when we lived close to a sawmill, that the snow in our yard had a summer pattern to it. Excess fly ash and sawdust had escaped from a defective burner and camouflaged the snow cover. The brown-toned coating gave the illusion of late fall, if not summer, to the normally white winter terrain.

One day I watched our cat stroll, with typically feline arrogance, across the brown road and climb to the top of the brown snow-bank. He paused momentarily to survey his kingdom before continuing on his journey. The instantly frantic animal almost disappeared as he sank through the brown sugar topping and floundered in two feet of the finely granulated stuff. He had to literally “swim” his way back to terra firma!

One inconvenience of the mild weather has been the icy conditions on the back-roads and driveways. Our yard has been a sheet of ice for most of the winter. I finally remembered to buy a bag of the material that is normally used to keep the cat`s box dry and sanitary. Apparently its moisture absorbing qualities are wonderful for reducing the slippage on winter walkways.

The other day I noticed a member of the family donning winter boots  and preparing to go out into the Great Outdoors.

“Why don`t you take the Kitty Litter out with you?” I suggested.

He did not answer me. A variety of expressions crossed his countenance. At our home we have both indoor and outdoor facilities and I suddenly realized that he had planned on visiting the little house out back!

PET ROCKS

Circa 1975 (or 76?) Sense and Nonsense

The story of the “pet rock” craze which swept the continent this Christmas reads like a modern but less believable version of “Cinderella”. How a poor but honest (and enterprising) beer parlour bum became a millionaire almost overnight. And all without  the help of a fairy godmother with a magic wand.

Maybe I’m hardhearted but I believe rocks should be kept outside at all times. As a matter of fact I am not fond of rocks at all. Our family always treated rocks with contempt. Maybe it was because we had so many in the garden and in the fields. It is hard to love something in your maturity when as a child you were taught to remove it from sight at all times.

I will admit that rocks are cheap to feed and have rather clean habits once you have washed the original dirt off them. However none of the rocks I have known have had any personality at all. They just sat there and never said a word. They didn’t bark, meow or even chirp. There is no way one could brag about the cute things their rock had done or compare it with the neighbour’s rock. Chances are the neighbour’s rock would be exactly as cute and intelligent as one’s own.

However a lot of people must love their rocks. I understand there are even funeral services available for your dearly departed “pet.” That is, if you can prove that it is dead. Apparently it is awfully hard to tell when a pet rock has died.

Acting on the premise that if rocks can die, then they must also suffer a period of “unwellness,” some young friends of ours have started a new service in our area. They have opened a hospital for sick or otherwise incapacitated pet rocks. An area in their parent’s living room is designated for this noble cause. I can assure concerned pet rock owners that rocks are treated with tender loving care if they ever have need of this facility.

Everywhere I looked, rocks were tucked warmly into comfortable beds. Some of the rocks were really quite pitiful. One was covered with red, yellow and blue spots and looked quite contagious. I was assured by the nurse on duty that rocks have entirely different diseases than people. We cannot catch their diseases anymore than they can catch ours.

Another rock was literally plastered with bandaids. Apparently this was a particularly sad case.  This rock had been deliberately maimed by a rock hound. He assumed that the rock had a heart of agate and brutally attacked it with his rock pick. Luckily his aim was bad and the nicks were superficial. The nurse was optimistic that the wounds would heal with time.

After visiting this hospital I find I am still unable to love a rock. I suppose I shall always remain insensitive to the needs and wants of these round, hard, little objects. However it is nice to know that if one should ever take a rock “to heart” there is medical treatment available.

The Fraser Lake Royal Canadian Legion

Over the past two and a half  years the Fraser Lake Royal Canadian Legion Hall has been renovated, refurbished, refinanced, and members’ spirits renewed, due to the  efforts of some very dedicated volunteers.

I recall the building as being a community hall back in the days before multi-channel TV and instant internet, when our family lived out-of-town. The hall was a social and entertainment center located in the nearby town of Fraser Lake. I remember chug- chugging across the lake from the North Shore in a boat with a 2 1/2 horse- power motor to attend a Taller O’shea or Evan Kemp music extravaganza. In later years we drove over to watch movies such as “True Grit” and “Born Free” on Friday evenings and attended many of the Saturday night dances.

When the population increased and the Recreation Complex became the community entertainment focus in the 1970’s a group of war veterans, their relatives and supportive members of the community, purchased the building as a place of honour and a venue for meetings and Legion activities. It became a hive of activity and money was raised for the Poppy Fund which helped provide funding for  many medical and educational needs in the community.

When I joined the Legion I really had no idea what it was all about. I learned that there was a strong connection to the past; particularly to veterans of the world wars and subsequent battles our fellow Canadians had participated in, and continue to participate in. We need to honour our veterans whether or not we believe war was a necessary part of our history.

There’s been some discussion involving those wishing to preserve tradition and activities from previous years. The “hats off” emphasis from the past has been lessened to maintaining the tradition, but only on Remembrance Day and times of particular relevence to honouring our veterans. Many young people wear head coverings as part of their indoor wardrobe ccessories and “times they are achanging”

An Honour Room has been developed at the far end of the hall, with couches and comfortable chairs. Photographs and albums containing information pertinant to our citizens who went to war, portraits of past presidents of the Fraser Lake Legion, and other relevant memorabilia is on display. Everyone is welcome to relax and enjoy perusing that particular area of the Legion. But please remove your hats.

Children are always welcome at the Legion when the kitchen is open. When the bar is also open, children must be accompanied by their parents. When the kitchen is closed and the bar is open,  it is “adults only”.

I MISS OUR RABBITS!

Circa 1981 Sense and Nonsense

I miss our rabbits!  There I’ve said it. But not too loudly I hope. I don’t miss them enough to accept any replacements! After all, what rabbit could replace Brownie the first? Or second; or third ; or…? And Snoopy…we only had three of him (or her) and then there was Blackie…

I cannot recall all of our Blackies but I do remember the last one. Last spring she proved herself to be the Houdini of the rabbit world. She successfully escaped from her confinement on an average of once a week – to dine upon my neighbour’s tulips!

Sometimes, after eluding her captors for days, she would boldly re-enter her cage to visit her 11 babies. I would find her crouching there, her delighted offspring leaping fore and aft. The desperate “these kids are driving me crazy” expression on her face was one that many human mothers could sympathise with. I suppose if I had 11 babies I might be tempted to escape too!

I would carefully mend her cage, but somehow, in the dead of night, she would find a hole (where no hole oughta be), enlarge it and once more ease her way outside to freedom.

Blackie had the largest surviving family of all our rabbits. Charlie (sometimes known as Charlene) surprised us one summer with ten.

Our rabbits were always surprising me. I wonder if they are like earthworms (or is it bees?) and can change their sex at will. We had three does last winter (we thought) but somehow Blackie got pregnant. (Snoopy the third was blamed but he denied everything.)

Our rabbit farm began when a friend’s little girl gave ours a fluffy white bunny named Snowball. Snowball was lonesome all by herself, so along came Brownie the first. It seemed like no time at all before Snowball was known as Grandma Rabbit.

Rabbits are not that high up on the list of smart animals. We did, however, have one Brownie who had personality. For some reason he was allowed the freedom of the place (it must have been before or after the tulip season). Brownie would follow us everywhere, darting back and forth underfoot and making a general nuisance of himself. We always knew when the outhouse was occupied. Brownie would be scratching frantically on the door eager for human companionship. One visitor referred to him as “that vegetarian dog”. It was an apt description – he could do everything but bark!

At times we would eye our rabbits and discuss the merits of rabbit stew. In order, however, to transform rabbits into food, one has to (shudder) shoot them. What rabbits are lacking in smarts, they more than make up for in cutes. It can be very hard to pull the trigger on a caged rabbit.

On the rare occasions that we did butcher (mostly escapees) I found that the resultant meat was not as appetizing as I had thought it would be. When I served rabbit for supper we used to refer to it as a “long chicken!” (our youngest child never suspected that her father was a murderer!)

This past summer we sold the last of our rabbits. I still feel a trifle guilty when I pass their empty cages. Then I remember the tons of grass we picked and the cages we cleaned. I also remember our frustration when we tried to recapture an escape artist.

Our next door neighbours turned off their TV one day last spring to watch my husband stalk an errant Blackie. She carefully avoided all the snares he put out for her. Finally, he lost his patience, found a good piece of rope and lassoed her!

For awhile he was known in the neighborhood as “The Cottontail Cowboy!”

LIMERICK-ING

Circa 1975 Sense and Nonsense

Limericks are a lot of fun. All my life, I have been trying to write at least one very bad limerick. I understand a limerick has to be really bad to be good. My limericks are either too good to be bad, or more often they are so bad they have neither rhyme nor reason. Badness is relative and it possible to be so bad that a superlative must be used, such as worse.

Having just re-read the limerick about the man from Nantucket who kept all his cash in a bucket, the terrible urge to write another limerick has again struck me. Living in a place called Fraser Lake has stifled this urge for years. There is no way I can write a limerick about Fraser Lake. There are too many syllables or something. Vanderhoof is scarcely better. If anyone can write a limerick about either of these two towns will they please send me a copy? I shall add them to my collection of bad verse.

There are however some dandy villages in our area which are very rhyme-able. Sometimes one has to bend the pronunciation a bit. The “g’s” in the following verse have to be accentuated to rhyme with Engen:

A singer who sang was from Engen,
In the shower her voice would be ringin’
But she showered too often,
Caught cold and a cold an’
Thus ended her professional singin’.

A gal who lives out in Fort Fraser,
Has a dog which seems to amaze her,
When she packs for vacation,
This dog, an Alsatian,
Unpacks all her clothes which delays her!

There once was a man from Endako,
Whose living was made with a backhoe,
With this rig he did dig a hole that was big,
‘Twas sad, cause he never came back, Oh!

Finally, we once lived in a small town called Barriere in Southern BC which is a very rhyme-able place indeed.

A lady who lives down in Barriere,
Had “Barrett” tattooed on her derriere,
Her boyfriend named Fred was a Socred who said,
If it weren’t for her derrière, I’d marry ‘er!

Note: The government in opposition at the time was Social Credit or “Socred”.
In about 1990, I finally came up with a limerick for Fraser Lake:
Fraser Lake’s along Highway 16,
It’s a place where most folks haven’t been,
If you walk, run or slither ‘tween Prince George and Smithers,
You’ll find us ‘bout halfway between!

A CORNY PLAY

Circa 1980 Sense and Nonsense

The following is a very corn y play written while perusing through the seed catalogues.  The scene is the front porch of an old farmhouse set in the bush miles from anywhere.  The daughter of the house Rose is being courted by a city slicker named Brad.

BRAD:  “Rose, you are a ra’dishCamellia gorgeous chick and lettuce neck. Let me kiss your tulips. When I hold you I’m so gladiola.”

ROSE:  “Oh begonia! I’m glad too though, cosmos the time I’m stuck out here plum in the sticks, with my ma, my pa, my elder brother Will and my baby brother Al.”

AL:  “Hybrid tea Rose’s pretty dreth (he can’t always pronounce his “s”) You poesy come intide now!”

BRAD: “Hyacinths I last saw you, you’ve grown!  Who says we have to come inside?”

AL:  “Potato.”

ROSE: “Well, run along. I’ll colum’bi’ne by. We’re getting married to-marrow—although Pa doesn’t know it yet.”

BRAD:  “You didn’t tell your dad?  What about your mom, did you aster?”

ROSE:  “Yes, but she promised me some perfumed bath sals ify wouldn’t tell Pa until to-dai sy.”

Enter Pa (angry)

PA:  “Why should I caul iflower ignore me?  Where’s baby Al?”

BRAD:  “There he is!   Creeping red fescue!”

PA:  “Slow down young un’… Ouch!”

ROSE:  “Oh no, Al fell and he’s crying!”

Enter Ma (she’s been cooking supper)

MA: “What happened?  Where’s my baby?”

ROSE:  “Alfalfa,  he fell clean off the porch.”

PA:  “The baby’s breath  ing,  ain’t he?  How about me, he crawled up tomato and bit it hard!  Every time he chrysanthemum comforts him, he becomes more spoiled!  We should hire a citron on more occasions, then he won’t be such a mama’s boy.”

AL:  “Poppies!  I hate baby- titters.  Petunia’r little boy will run away from home.”

MA:  “My poor baby!  Can’t you tell when your pa is just talking orchid ing around?”  (Turning to Pa angrily)  “My supper is probably burning in the pan sy!  All because you can’t look after one little boy!”

PA:  (Very angry, turns to Brad) “It’s all your fault!  Courtin’ my daughter with no good intentions that I know of!  I should kick your bachelor button on the portulaca. (translation: porch.  You like huh?)  Listen cowboy,  you pull your lupin right away or I shall Kohli Rabi. (they are Jewish)

SCENE 2   The wedding is over and the newlyweds have left on their honeymoon in Pa’s car.  Ma and Pa are relaxing in the parlour.

Enter Rose bedraggled and crying:

MA AND PA IN UNISON:  “What happened?”

Enter elder brother Will.

WILL:  “What’s going on?”

MA:  “It’s Rose and she’s weeping Will ow  whatever could have happened?”

ROSE:  “A crabby ber ry attacked the car when we stopped for a picnic. He broccoli windows, mangel ed the hood and squash ed the gas tank. The gas leek ed out of the tank.”

WILL:   “I believe there’s asparagus tank around here somewhere.  Where is that bridegroom of yours?  Why didn’t he holl yhocks down with you?”

ROSE:  “When the bear attacked it grabbed Brad by the seat of the pants.  Brad beet at it endive  ‘d into the bushes.  His clothes were tattered.  We found some clothes on an old scarecrow. He couldn’t come with me, as the clothes are so stiff from being stretched out scarecrow fashion for so long. He has to stand still with his arms straight out for the clothes to fit!  (She giggles) You should hear that scare crocus though!  He scared off a phlox of birds. All but one little lark.  That larkspur ‘ned  the others and was perched on Brad’s hat when I left.”

PA:  “The insurance will cover the car.  An adjuster will take the caraway as soon as I phone.”

ROSE:  “Brad doesn’t care about the car.  He said let the carrot for all he cared.”

WILL:   “He’ll change his mind.  He’ll probably want the caragan ‘a  soon as we can get it fixed.”

PA:  “ I just phoned the insurance company and it’s lilac time.”

ROSE:  “Why Pa?’

PA :  “Time to lilac heck!  Our insurance doesn’t cover damage done by wild animals.”

 

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