Tuesday 28 February 2012

Winter Camping: French Style

Winter seemed to be ending, but it came back and dumped in a heavy layer, or two, of snow.  French, Pancake and I once got a high school credit for sleeping out in just this type of weather.

In our school gym class was set up into units.  We could pick different tasks, perform them, and earn credits.  French convinced us to spend two nights in the woods in the middle of winter.

We hiked out into the woods.  Then dug out some deep snow trenches, and lined them with some tarps.  Then we placed another tarp over top and buried it with some snow.  That first night we were cold for sure, but French had a plan.  During the day he sabotaged one of the shelters belonging to some of the girls from our class.  He'd enact the second part of the plan later.

French and Pancake also managed the food situation.  They had told me to bring foil, and the stuff for smores.  They'd bring the rest.  French and Pancake each brought a bag with 30 McDonalds cheeseburgers.  They'd hand them to me.  I'd wrap them in foil and warm them up nice and slow over the fire.

The girls went to bed that night, and their shelter promptly collapsed.  French invited them over to our fire. I warmed them up some burgers, and made smore after smore.  In a typical French fashion the four girls transitioned from the fire, into our shelter.

It was a much more pleasant night, and warmer night, but to this day I've never had another McDonalds cheeseburger.

Friday 24 February 2012

Rose's Bible

The first thing I ever noticed about Rose was her Bible. It was beat up. It was an NIV Study Bible and it was in tatters. She'd even duct taped the spine, to keep it from splitting in half. Her husband, Bruce Fish, works at a rural dump. I kept thinking he'd pulled this Bible from the heaps of refuse. This was not the case.

I had a coach in high school that said that if we wanted to be great basketball players we needed to dribble the ball everywhere we went. This is the same principle that Rose uses for her bible. Wherever she goes her Bible is with her. She'll even bring it out in the boat when we go fishing. Rose is more likely to have her Bible than her purse.

Rose has a mandatory Bible study every morning at 10:30. The whole world stops and whoever is around has no choice but to participate Recently French and I were ice-fishing with Bruce Fish and it was 10:30. Out comes her wretched looking Bible. We weren't paying enough attention so she handed it to French to read the day's passage. Usually he can't even find his Bible, but he stopped what he was doing and read aloud. Rose looked well pleased.

I recently asked her how her Bible got so battered. She just shrugged. French said: “Tell him your system Rose.” She just shrugged again. Rose is so shy. French said: “Rose reads the Old Testament once a year, and the New Testament twice, she also reads all of Proverbs once a month”. Turns out that this has been her system for over twenty years. That certainly accounts for the state of her Bible.

Rose looked at me and said: “You go read Proverbs 3:5-6.”

Monday 13 February 2012

French's First Suspension: or You Gotta Be Cool to Be Cool

I like to think back on things I've learned from French over the years.  Sometimes I learned from observation.  Like the time I got to witness his first school suspension.  He'd had his fair share of detentions and timeouts, but this time things really blew up.

French was always a cool guy.  He'd be the last kid to finally break down and wear a proper winter coat, gloves, and god forbid a toque.  People would ask him why he'd be wearing nothing but a jean jacket to school in December.  He'd never really say.  The closest we ever got to an answer was: "I run hot."  It was just his thing...you gotta be cool to be cool.

Just before Christmas break French showed up as usual; dressed for fall.  This teacher with the unfortunate name of Mr. Bird decided to take French on.  Mr. Bird dragged French to the lost and found bin and tried to force him to take and then wear mitts, a scarf and a toque before he was allowed outside for recess.  French balked to say the least.  There was no way he would put on these smelly old items.  Mr. Bird would not drop it.  He was really pushing French. 

Finally French snapped and grabbed a old orange toque out of Mr. Bird's hands.  This crazy teacher had been trying to put it on French's head.  French jumped up and jammed it tight over Mr. Bird's head.  Then he yelled: "I hope yah get lice yah crazy old bird".  French ran off and didn't come back to school that afternoon.  He got a two day suspension for this incident.  Or in French's words: "a longer winter break."

On my mental continuum of teachers my scale goes from Mr.Bird on one end to French on the other.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Mean Dean's Dad

I've been thinking about a story French told me concerning Mean Dean. Often, as I drive to work, my thoughts fall back into it. 

Mean Dean was and is a tough bastard.  We used to say he had a chip on each shoulder.  We called him mean, mainly because it rhymed, but really he was more angry then mean.  Why he was so angry is complex, but one episode helps in a way.

Dean's paternal grandma died when he was 30.  He only ever talked to her a few times, but she had this odd habit of sending him a wallet with a twenty dollar bill in it every year on his birthday.  Dean always had pretty fancy leather wallets, and so did we.  He often kept the twenty and tossed the wallet.  I still have one of his castoffs.

When she died he felt obliged to go to her funeral. Even his mom went to pay her respects.  On the stairs of the church his mom paused in front of a man with tear stained checks.  Dean's mom said: "Dean meet your father."   Dean just shook his hand and said, "sorry for your loss."

His father said: "I'm sorry for yours."  There was a long pause and he added, awkwardly:  "You've grown...we should talk later."

Dean and his mom sat alone at the back of the church during the service.  Then Dean darted out the back door.

This was the first time he'd ever met his father.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Lies Your Dad Told You

Bruce Fish was ignored most days back in school.  Kids knew it was best that way or French would have "a word" with you. 

The problem was that Bruce Fish drew attention to himself by his odd little habits.  One such habit was to claim that his father knew many famous athletes.  Something would come up in class and Bruce Fish would holler out that his dad knew Mohamed Ali, Johnny Bench, the Refrigerator Perry...etc.  He'd never back down, and the other kids would pile on and tease him constantly.  They'd pass him in the hallway and ask him if Magic Johnson, or Bruce Lee had been over for dinner? Mainly they'd call him a liar.

Bruce Fish would get really hot when he was called a liar.  He'd yell back: "I ain't no liar."  One kid yelled back: "well you spread lies your dad told you." 

He once brought in a photo of Mohamed Ali sitting on the bumper of a car.  He told everyone that it was his dad's car.  The kids just laughed and laughed.  They truly thought he was pathetic.  They kept telling him to give up his lies.  Eventually they just went back to ignoring Bruce Fish.

One day about a year later he knocked on French's shed door.  He was grinning like mad.  Bruce Fish held out a picture of his dad shaking hands with Stu Hart.  Looming in the background was Andre the Giant.