Wednesday 12 May 2021

Hemingway and Doves

 


I made this Hemingway image back in the fall.  Yes the quote about hunting men is creepy indeed.  I did enjoy his novels though.

Onto hunting...

When I was a kid I lived in a forest, so I hunted.  My buddy French used to bring his .410 shotgun out on some of his visits.  We'd have to sneak it past my mother, and we'd head out deep into the woods. There was an old abandoned house, and barn out there, and they were full of doves, and pigeons.  We'd also see the occasional rabbit, or partridge. 

One day French started popping a few rounds off, and he was nailing doves, and pigeons.  One fell really close to his feet.  He picked it up and spun it around by the head the body fell to the ground, and he tossed the head into some weeds.  French picked it up and deftly pulled out the two breasts.  He started a fire, and had me repeat the procedure a few more times.  French used an old cast iron pan to fry up about a dozen little dove breasts.  He had also brought what we called Lebanese Bread (sort of like pita bread).  We stuffed the bread full and had a nice hot meal.  I looked over a French, and he said: "damn I was hungry".

Wednesday 5 May 2021

We Got You


For many years a group of us would travel south from Canada and visit Stowe Vermont.  We'd try to go there in the early fall on the Canadian Thanksgiving Long Weekend/Columbus Day.  The autumn leaves would be out and the trails would be open.  One year we had hiked all day and were really hungry.  We walked into a restaurant, and it was packed.  The hostess said: "We can squeeze you in upstairs".  French agreed, and off we went.  We thanked her and she responded "No problem. It is a squeezy squeezy night".    Years later we still say this funny phrase if we go into a busy restaurant or bar.

The best part was that the upstairs was actually a small private room.  It was perfect.  The waitress said: "Are you Canadian?"  We acknowledged that we were.  She then said: "We got you".  A few minutes later she came back with a table d'hote menu with Canadian Thanksgiving.  We agreed right away, and she promptly brought out a full turkey dinner.  It was magnificent.  We stayed until closing and put a good dent in their keg.  

We kept this tradition up for a few more years.  The place changed owners (actually a couple of times), but we still love to reminisce about that wonderful "squeezy squeezy night".




Wednesday 28 April 2021

Dought

 

The township dump where my friend Bruce works is only open one or twice a week (depending on the season).  He loves nothing more than wandering around and sorting through the modern debris on his days off.  I've told this story before, but he often takes bits and pieces and creates art with it.  The one piece that really made me laugh was the giant teddy bear sitting in a lawn chair wearing a sombrero. He'd occasionally add to his little art installation and make it more elaborate as the summer wore on.  I drove by once and saw several BMW and Mercedes cars parked by the dump taking photos with Bruce's hilarious creation.  I guess it was perfect for selfies.

This past winter someone dropped off a a huge sign.  It was around 9 or ten feet long, and maybe five feet high.  It just had the word DOUBT printed on it.  I can't imagine why?  It sat up against the dump fence for a while.  Then one day Bruce took a role of black duct tape and tore off some strips and taped over the UBT.  He threw me the tape and said "there fixed that 'effin thing". 


Wednesday 21 April 2021

Avril

 

Someone asked me the other day about my first job.  They were very impressed with my answer: ranch hand.  This was really not such a cool job.  I spent most of my time with a wheelbarrow and a shovel.   I was fifteen and making $100 a week. I thought I was rich.  

French worked there as well and that is where he met April.  He'd get to work early and clean up her horse's stall, and wait around to speak (flirt) with her.  French mostly stuck to two key jokes.  He'd call her Avril and tell everyone that she was French like him...she wasn't.  We'd double over laughing when someone would try to start a conversation with her in French.  She'd give us all a dirty look and ride off.   The second joke was he'd call her April May June.  She actually laughed at the one!

A while back we saw this photo online.  It was a pic of a barrel racer.  She'd just won at a local rodeo. The girl looked familiar, but I couldn't place her.  French said: "That is April's daughter".  Spitting image, and her mother's horsemanship skills to boot.  


Wednesday 14 April 2021

Hope

It has been a long year...or so.  My mental health has been up, and really really down over this time.  Amazingly, my friend Rose has stayed positive throughout.  It is hard to fathom how she does it.   Rose and her husband Bruce Fish live in the middle of nowhere.  He operates the township dump, and works for the county doing minor road maintenance, driving the garbage truck, and plowing snow every winter.   They may be the happiest couple I know.

It'll be pouring cold rain, and she'll be helping Bruce sort recycling with a smile on her face.   I've asked her many times: "what's the secret?"  Rose has two standard answers.  Sometimes she'll just say "hope".  Her other answer is the poetic phrase "on eagles wings". 

Last summer we had a rare visit from a bald eagle out at the lake.  Rose smiled bigger than usual when it landed just across the narrows, then took off and flew right over us later in the day.


Wednesday 7 April 2021

Holly the Temple Dog


This is Holly the Pug.   She left us in 2017 after 14 years as the Temple Dog.   One early morning we were out in the backyard and I couldn't see her as she'd wandered off into the forest.  I saw something coming out of the underbrush that was about pug sized.  It was waddling along.  I took a swig of coffee, and mid-sip I saw the tall black and white tail.  I did a legit spit take, and looked for Holly.  Out she came from the forest walking parallel to the skunk!  Thankfully she honed in on me and kept walking slowly, and calmly.  The skunk didn't seem to mind at all and veered off to the compost bin.  I rushed Holly in the backdoor.

It was a funny scene.  Growing up my German Shepherd got grazed by skunk spray, and my current dog (a Dutch Sheepdog/Schapendoes) got sprayed in the face two years ago.   That was a lot less funny.


Wednesday 31 March 2021

Well Rooted


One day during the January lockdown Rose was doing a little craft time with the kids.  She handed out some black construction paper, some white water colour paint and some straws.  The kids used the straws to blow the paint around the paper.  They were having the best time.

Soon the adults were doing it as well.  Bruce Fish blew some ones that looked like spindly birch trees.  French used a lot more paint and ended up making one that looked like skull shaped tree.  Rose was not impressed, but he "liked his scary ass skull painting".  He kept it up on his fridge for a while.

We decided to create digital version, and French printed up a Black Hoodie with his art on it.  I called it Well Rooted to be poetic...maybe I should have stuck with scary ass skull.

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Guard Your Heart

I've been hanging out all year with my little bubble.  This has certainly helped me get to know Rose a lot better.  I drop in and see her and Bruce Fish at least once a week.  They've done well, all things considered, with this damn pandemic.  Bruce spent the winter plowing snow for the county, and they open the dump on weekends, and every second Wednesday for recycling.  

Rose likes to run a little Bible Study on Sundays.  Bruce gets a nice campfire burning, and Rose reads the Bible, and asks us a few questions.  We read all of Luke, and Romans this winter.  French and I usually bring out the guitars for a "bit a worship"...if it isn't to cold!

She heads inside around noon to feed her kids, and French pulls out a few cold beers.  Rose disapproves, but ignores us for the most part.  When she leaves she always says "Guard your Heart" and taps her chest.  It is her version of "stay safe".  We decided to make her a shirt with her little expression on it.  Bruce told us that this phrase is from Proverbs 4:23, so we added that to the design.  Rose never wears sleeves in the summer so we got her an xs tank top, and a crewneck for cool nights by the fire. Bruce was so pleased to give it to her.  He said: "Here yah go.  Yer a good woman, and we love you".  


Sunday 21 February 2021

Working out.

Every morning Smitty's feet would hit the ground.  He'd walk out to the garage.  Lights would flip on; radio too.  He'd  swing in under the weights on the bench press.  Do a few reps.  Throw a few punches into the duct taped heavy bag.  Quickly jog back inside to grab a big mug of black coffee, maybe with a shot of rye if he wasn't driving truck that day.  Then he'd hit the bag a bit more, and knock out a few push-ups and some dumbbell sets.  

I asked Smitty how often he worked out.  He replied "every effing day bud, every effing day".  

When it is really cold he pops on a little space heater, and works out in an old Newfoundland sweater.  He's 97 this year, and I heard his music coming out of the garage, and even a few thuds from the heavy bag on my way to work this morning.

Friday 29 January 2021

Van Life


An old VW Van rolled into my driveway, it sputtered, stalled, and coasted the final bit.  I could hear an emergency break engage and out jumped French.  He said, "Shit I think I need a new fuel pump". He called Sweaty to see if he could source one.  Sweaty always says "he knows a guy" for every situation.  

French had traded an 80 hp Evinrude for his "new" van.  He'd picked up the outboard engine at an estate sale, but had never found the right boat for it.  So now he'd embraced "Van Life".  His plan was to drive it down through Windsor into Detroit, then Cincinnati for a Reds game, and then visit some bourbon distilleries in Kentucky.  He'd really gotten into Buffalo Trace Bourbon; can't say I blame him.

Bruce Fish always calls French's van "Charlie Brown" because of the stripe.  The paint job was a bit rough, but we got the fuel pump changed...and some varied electrical issues fixed as well.  It was in my yard for a few months.    #VanLife




Wednesday 27 January 2021

Hot Tub Beers


We got another big dump of snow last night.  The weather report called for 2 cm ...bullshit...more like 10 plus.  Too much for this cowboy.  I just got the snow blower put away, and I heard a rumble coming down the street.  A huge plow was coming down the cul de sac.  It was of course sweeping half of the snow bank into the newly cleaned driveways.  I put my coat back out, and grabbed the shovel.

I had just started hacking away at the new pile, and French pulled up and honked his horn.  He turned down the AC/DC...a bit and rolled down the window.  He held up a case of Beau's Lug Tread Lager.  Sweaty was in the passenger seat and he held up a few more and started singing "It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll" at the top of his voice.  They never said a word, and just drove off.  

French has a hot tub.  He fires it up and grabs some: "Hot Tub Beers".  He buys the Lugtreads in the perfect 600ml size.  I got working at the massive pile of snow blocking my driveway.  Time to crank the tunes, and crack a couple of cold ones, in the hot tub...or License to Chill as Sweaty calls it.

Ranching

 


When I was 15 I got my first real job.  French, Sweaty and I got a summer job on a Horse Ranch.  We made $100 a week.  I thought I'd hit the big time.  I also thought I'd get to meet, and hang-out with all of the girls that boarded their horses at the ranch.  Turns out they weren't too interested in the guys that did all the shovelling...not at all.  French and I did the bulk of the stall shovelling and Sweaty would wheelbarrow it out behind the barn.  One day the boss had us paint the fences with creosote.  Every black splatter of paint burned in the hot summer sun.  Soon I missed shovelling horse shit in the barn.  We only got a bit of a break when there were riding contests.  We'd spend the day setting up the course and directing traffic.  

A few years ago we hadn't heard from French in a few months.  He finally answered our texts to let us know he'd been in Wyoming working at a Dude Ranch.  French spent a season herding cattle, and taking tourists on trail rides on the weekends.  He said that "it was a hellavuh a lot better than our first ranching gig".  Yeah wide open skies, fresh air, and beautiful mountains on the horizon.  Plus he got to keep these sweet Ely Cattleman shirts!  

Now I know why French loves that line from the movie Rushmore: "I ain't even here right now; I'm in Cheyenne Wyoming".  We made this idea into a poster.

He has it hanging above his snowblower in the garage.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Big Sur

 



French was the one who introduced me to Jack Kerouac.  He "made" me read On the Road, and Dharma Bums in senior year.  He had a copy of Big Sur as well.  French started it, but said "fuck this...I'll read it when I get to Big Sur".  

Many years later he finally did it.  The year before Covid locked us all down he drove his van down from B.C. to California.  On the way he bought a bottle of Highland Park 18 year old Scotch.  It was an expensive dram, but it was smooth sipping as he read through the novel.  

The novel takes place over 10 days, but French is a speedy reader.  He read the novel over a weekend sitting close enough to hear, but not see the Ocean.  

I asked him about the trip.  "Shoulda just read that goddamn book in High School! Reading Kerouac in one's teens, versus one's forties is...a different experience.  The scenery and the the Scotch were top shelf, yah top shelf".