Archive for the ‘Dreams and musings’ Category

The Glamper

The concept of taking a tiny, outdated and rundown camping trailer and refurbishing it into something not only functional but perfect in every nostalgia-inducing aspect first came to me one hot Indian summer day at the 2013 Country Living fair in Columbus, Ohio. Not that any one part of it inspired me to come up with the idea myself; rather, the realized creation rose up before me beyond stalls piled high with antiques, jewelry, furniture, amputated doll arms and other vintage ephemera.

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I stopped, floored by the ingenuity and thought, My goodness. Someone’s taken a tiny, outdated and rundown camping trailer and refurbished it into something not only functional but perfect in every nostalgia-inducing aspect.

This isn’t the one at the fair but it’s gone through the same process.

photo credit: Eighth Lake via photopin (license)

photo credit: Eighth Lake via photopin (license)

I Googled this phenomenon when I got home and discovered that I am a latecomer to it – people all over the continent, mostly women, are buying up tiny old camping trailers (the tinier and older, the sweeter the finished product) and converting each one into what amounts to a play fort for neurotic romantics. They labeled the movement with a suitably clever portmanteau: glamping, which in its broadest sense means camping enjoyed with the amenities and luxuries of home (this can happen in a tent) but often refers specifically to camping in these trailers, and then they organized rallies in every state and province so that they can admire each other’s glampers and show off their own. The rule for converting these trailers is that no rules exist beyond what personal style and taste dictate. Contemporary browns and stodgy grays have no dominion over the glamper; they’re turned out in every colour imaginable: lemon yellow, cherry red, calming turquoise and combinations of all three and more. Interiors are limited only to the imagination, from frilly to minimal, monochromatic pinks, 50s diner, fairy tale, each trailer is its owner’s happy place realized. I was captivated.

Albert responded to my latest whim the way he does to all of them: amused smiles and eye-rolling set to indistinct rumblings of, “impracticle”…”never use it”…”too much work”, words that mean little to anyone afflicted with the fever of new discovery and ambition, if they hear them at all.

What he did next though, was a surprise. While I perused vintage trailer websites and cheered myself with the hope of owning one someday before retirement, Albert secretly scoured the country side for a specimen to match what he’d gleaned from my rhapsodic depictions of the ideal glamper. He found it last summer, hunkered down in a man’s backyard on highway 3 between Aylmer and Tillsonburg.

When he drove up to the house to ask about it, the man came to the door and said the trailer was for sale but that it belonged to a younger brother whom he identified only as shithead junior, but he never said whether the boys’ namesake was their father or himself. All that remained for Albert was to call me up and mention, as cool and indifferent as you please, that he’d landed me the old trailer I’d been hankering after. I let out a gasp and some other high-pitched noises and fell to thanking and scolding him in turns and generally carrying on exactly the way he’d known I would to such news. It was what motivated him from the beginning.

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The trailer is a thirteen-foot 1965 Playmor, which, on researching alphabetical listings of travel trailer brands on the internet makes me grateful – it falls only two entries below Playboy and a page over from Gay Rover – names innocent enough fifty years ago, surely, but I couldn’t disclose the name of my trailer without a blush were it to carry connotations of a lecherous magazine mogul or character in a Bronski Beat song.


The glamper honeymoon ended when we got it home. Behind every fantasy spun from a vintage trailer with buttercream curtains and daisy decals is a load of work, and work of the most unromantic sort – wiping petrified mouse droppings from closets, plying layers of old linoleum from the floor one obstinate inch at a time and if you’re really unlucky, pulling back a wall panel to reveal wood rot in the trailer’s frame, and then you know that the renovation monster ruining your life has only begun to straighten up and look interested. It feeds on every discovery of further damage – Hello, rotting floor boards – and crows when it knows you’re in too far to turn back – Home Depot doesn’t refund Behr’s Effervescent Yellow in semi gloss because only a poor sap who fancies dilapidated camping trailers would buy it.

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We couldn’t keep the barn cats out and yet invariably, they just wanted to look at the barn from the inside of a trailer.

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But we prevailed. The damp wood was aired and repaired and then we replaced and painted walls and everything else that needed freshening up. We scarcely finished one day before we finally went camping with a group of friends at the end of July this year.

trailer outside

Even now, I haven’t done everything to it that I plan to but it’s still right. Besides, renovating can threaten the equilibrium in even the best of marriages if you don’t know when to stop.

I wish my pictures of the interior weren’t so dark.  The bench seat in the back pulls out into a twin-size bed. I underestimated the amount of curtain fabric needed to cover the window at the head of the bed but that’s another detail I’m willing to overlook for the sake of equilibrium.

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In the front, the table lowered and the four bench cushions laid flat provide another twin bed.

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The tiny three-burner stove and oven in classic Avocado Green is my favourite feature inside the trailer.

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It reminds me that there was a time near enough for me to remember yet so far removed from today’s jaded and contemptuous mindset that people considered this humble colour quite beautiful and suited to the Frigidaires and Hotpoints of the day. I know they must have been contemptuous of their parents’ things but I’m not sure each generation only matches the level of contempt of the one before it. I think maybe we get snobbier and more cynical all the time.

I kept the original linoleum in a few strategic places for my own private enjoyment.

old linoleum

Dark clouds moved in on the third night at camp. I crawled into the back bed and Albert into the front. He soon fell asleep but I left a light on and counted the plastic flowers that surround the screws in the ceiling and listened to the slow rain on the tin roof a few feet above us. I video-taped a little of it. I wanted to immortalize the perfectness of this tiny glowing sanctuary and the rain except the effect produced through my phone camera sounds more like AK-47 bullets hitting the roof than anything comforting. Still, you don’t forget what it’s like to inhabit those moments where you believe, however briefly, that drive test flower powerappointments, low platelet counts and hyper-Calvinists can never get in or make you come out. I guess this is what inspires every glampermaniac to tackle the grime and rotting wood and mouse poo and frustration in the first place. We’re not crazy. We just knew it could be like this.


what comes of reading tom sawyer and huckleberry finn – then and now

Persons who have never read about the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn may find the following article confusing and irrelevant.  Other persons within the same lamentable class may be inspired to seek out and read about the rollicking and hilarious adventures of these two boys for themselves.  The former may dismiss these literary treasures and never know what they’re missing.  The latter are in for a treat.

Running away from civilization to glorious adventure inside a perpetual summer with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn was one of my fondest daydreams when I was a kid.  I had most details worked out, where we’d hide, how we’d procure food, firewood and Springsteen cassettes.  Then the dilemma of whether I’d go steady with and eventually marry Tom or Huck reared up and cast a shadow over our exploits.  I felt sad and the dream was over for a time.

Tom and Huck

Last week, I pulled both Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from my bookshelf and read them for the first time in about twenty-five years.  I learned a few things.

1.  Both books are almost as good as when I was a kid, and would as good if age and disillusionment didn’t dissipate a bit of colour and bigness and wonder reserved for little readers.  I wasn’t sure how absorbing they would be now that I’m grown up but Twain’s own preface to Tom Sawyer gave me confidence.


He wasn’t fooling.  Both books are still funny and thought-provoking now and will be again if I get to pull them from the shelf in another quarter of a century.

2.  You can’t dive into both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in only one week without your grammar got soaked like Tom’s one-eyed cat stumbling over a wash basin.

I can’t say nothing now without double negatives creeping into my speech and word endings may or may not make it past my lips before another linguistic embarrassment rolls off my tongue.    Following a commotion coming from the chicken coop Tuesday night I turned to Albert and asked him what on earth was ailin’ ‘nem hens.  Worst of all, when I try to correct myself, I can’t remember every time how to say things proper.

I’ve got no choice but to steer clear of every person I can reasonably avoid whose grammar I’ve ever corrected until this verbal malady wears off.  Pride and Prejudice next week will likely speed the process but to my shame, a week of cave exploring, Mississippi river rafting and black slave abolitionin’ makes fancy dress balls and English manners seem fearsome dull by comparison.

3.  Reading these books no longer makes me want to run off with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  I’m unnerved by the relief I feel at this discovery, if you can unravel that.  No, my renewed interest in all things Twainian will be satisfied in a journey, travelled by nothing more rustic nor romantical than a 2013 Toyota Corolla with fully functioning AC for warm weather and heated seats for cool, to Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain’s hometown and inspiration for St. Petersburg and everything and everybody in it.

Well, that and a fanatical search for a hardcover copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Published in New York by Macmillan in 1962, illustrated by John Philip Falter.  Because he’s the only artist who’s captured Twain’s characters the way anyone who’s imagined them properly could.  Since we’re disclosing.

But I know now why I got sad as a little girl when I thought about choosing Tom or Huck.  It’s because marrying would require the boys to grow up, and that would be a tragedy.  One could imagine Tom as an adult (but why would you?) but a grown up Huck calls to mind a pitiful image of Muff Potter: harmless, kind even, to the village children, but aimless and ill-equipped to function in the real world.

Others have written about the pointlessness of a grownup Tom and Huck (Twain actually considered bringing geriatric Tom and Huck back to St. Petersburg for one last book) but it’s possible that the distinction of having arrived at this conclusion through soul-wrenching ambivalence about which fictional character to choose for a life partner may be mine exclusively.

A grown-up Tom and Huck are as difficult to imagine as a scallop-edged bone china teacup perched aloft the pinky finger of Injun Joe.  It’s just not right.  And so I won’t try no more.




The War of the Warts

Albert grew warts on his hands ten years ago.  Big, ugly growths that challenged even the most well-bred among his acquaintances to look into his eyes during conversation instead of down at his hands in fascinated revulsion.  Worse still, small children recoiled when the otherwise beloved Mr. Wall reached down to tousle their hair.

This picture shows Albert’s hands about three years ago when the warts were quite small compared with how they looked six months ago.

Albert's warts

A friend advised him to bandage the warts in duct tape to get rid of them.  Albert readily complied; duct tape as a fix-all is habitual with him and a redneck naturally inclines to a redneck solution to his problems.  It didn’t work.  The warts remained and left me wondering whether the homeopathic principle of applying like to like holds any merit at all.duct tape

Next, Albert underwent cryotherapy in his doctor’s office.  The treatment is aptly named – liquid nitrogen pressed to flesh to freeze it to death can reduce anyone to tears.  He endured twelve treatments over a six month stretch and each time, the freezing produced huge, angry blisters that rendered every task involving his hands an excruciating ordeal.  I would not have considered such pain worth smooth, blemish-free hands even if it had worked but to watch Albert endure such agony to no avail seemed even crueler.  The warts crawled out from under the carnage as though nothing had gone off to interrupt tactical proceedings of Operation Ugly.

Sometime later, an elderly Tante from church telephoned with a new solution to Albert’s problem.  She instructed him to count the warts and then call her back with the number.  She would then cut a length of string into the same number of pieces, tie a knot in each one and bury them in the garden after nightfall.  This, she assured him, had purged many a warty one back in the Mexican Darpa when she was a girl.  She felt certain it would do the same for Albert.

Matthew makes no mention of Jesus tying bits of string into knots when he healed the centurion’s servant and so Albert gently let her know that if this method of distance healing was actually effective, it was owing to Hakjse’rie (witchcraft).  This took the unwitting sorceress by surprise.  It hadn’t occurred to her to wonder how or why her wooly bit of wisdom might work.  On hearing Albert’s position though, she promptly abandoned the scheme.  There was apt to be a cure out there that was every bit as efficient as Hakjse’rie, she reckoned, for we’d none of us better mess with that.

The medical route had proved a dismal failure.  Folklore monkeyshines were out of the question.  Albert turned again to a more homegrown approach, one that, were it to fail, would not be for lack of sheer brutality.

Henry Froese had once offered to boil the warts out with battery acid.  He had successfully rid himself of warts this way, he said, so the prognosis for Albert was very good.  Albert now agreed to the idea, leaving me in no doubt that cryotherapy freezes more than just warts.

First, Henry applied an electric grinder to the warts.  He must cut away the tough outer layer, he explained, to allow the acid to penetrate the roots.  His theory made sense except that after ten minutes, the grinder had achieved no more than buff the warts to a high shine.  Albert’s hands took on a freakishly dapper look, as though groomed to audition as a hand double in some science fiction movie.  James Bond, Molefinger.

Henry attacked again, this time with a pair of shears, and the warts gave way.  His exultant grin widened with each one that capitulated and fell screaming in the blood which pooled in the grass below Albert’s mutilated hands.  A twig lay handy near his feet so he used it to administer battery acid to the amputated warts.  When the bright red blood sizzled, turned black and congealed, Henry declared the operation a success.


And it was a success, depending on how you looked at it.  Battery acid had the effect of Miracle-Gro on a prize-winning rose bush.  The warts, pruned and fertilized, grew back bigger, gnarlier and more obnoxious-looking than the ones pictured above.

Albert’s not one to admit defeat to anything, but I think he gave up on them then.  At least, he stopped trying to do anything about them.  They hurt and bled as he worked the farm but he said little about it.  The warts continued to sprout and spread, eventually threatening to take over his hands.

In January, his little brother Matthew, a mechanic, happened to cure his own warts quite by accident.    The constant exposure of his hands to gasoline, Varsol and the frigid winter air dried and chapped his hands painfully so he turned to Mother Wall for help.  She gave him the remains of a bottle of moisturizer which he sniffed before declaring, “It smells girly.  But I don’t mind” and proceeded to bathe his hands in it every day.

Not only did his wiry hands take on velvety suppleness and the exotic fragrance of cocoa butter, his warts disappeared within a couple of months.002

His testimony was enough to revive hope in Albert one last time.  He examined the bottle, turned it upside down and squeezed about half a cup into his right hand.   No dime-sized pat for him; he slathered more lotion on himself than I’d known human skin could absorb but I underestimated Albert.  He steadily worked it into his hands and as he worked, Mother Wall’s kitchen flooded with the warm, heady scent of cocoa plantations and renewed determination.

Mother Wall studied his single-minded chafing for a while.  “Here,” she said, “take the bottle home with you.”

And he did.  Shortly after, I accompanied Albert to Sally Beauty Supply in St. Thomas.  It’s not the sort of shop he was wont to patronize but his daily embalming ceremony had quickly drained the remains of Mother Wall’s container.  His only hope for expelling those warts resided in a fresh bottle of Queen Helene cocoa butter hand and body lotion, no matter where he had to go to get it.

Its luxuriously smoothing properties exhibited themselves about a month later when Albert attended a viewing at Kebbel funeral home.  He stood in a group of mourners conversing in subdued tones when his buddy Michael walked in.  He and Albert are too close for something so formal as a handshake to feel anything other than awkward but since Michael exchanged the ritual with everyone else in the circle, there was nothing for Albert to do but stick out his hand.

Michael took it.  “I always figured you’d have a working man’s hands.” he remarked in a tone mildly surprised yet loud enough for the corpse to hear.  “They’re soft as a baby’s bum!”

I don’t know what Albert said out loud.  He chose not to say what was in his head.  But even this mortification couldn’t sway his zealous devotion to the queen of cocoa butter and soon, she rewarded his loyalty.  The warts began to disappear.  Not fall off, just shrink and…disappear.  She waved her creamy scepter over blemishes which nitrogen, power tools and battery acid had failed to cast out and banished them without so much as a wince of pain or a drop of blood from her subject.


It was my turn to eye the bottle with interest.  It was disconcerting to think that such power resided in an ordinary bottle of hand lotion retailing at $6 on the shelves at Sally Beauty but Albert didn’t share my concern.  I guess if you let Henry Froese dip a dirty stick in battery acid and stuff it into your bloody knuckles, you don’t much care what’s inside a harmless-looking plastic container so long as it cures what ails you.  So it doesn’t bother me either.  Albert’s hands, Albert’s toil worn, battle-scarred, beautiful hands are healed of the lumpy, painful growths that plagued them for over ten years.  And that’s good enough for both of us.


A Celebration

Henry and Margaret Froese, a couple in my and Albert’s Life group, threw a fortieth wedding anniversary bash last night.  The group commissioned me to record a few memories we’ve made with Henry and Margaret through the years so that we could present them as a reading at the celebration.  So I wrote it.  Then we nabbed Albert to read it.  We always make Albert do the scary stuff.

With Henry and Margaret’s permission, I’m sharing it here as well for the benefit of those who know this wonderful couple and to introduce them to those of you who don’t.


Hello, my name is Albert Wall.  I, together with my wife, Tina, Pete and MaryAnne Harms, Maria Froese, Jake and Nettie Thiessen, George and Hilda Peters and Dave and Esther Dyck make up Henry and Margaret’s life group.  The purpose of a life group is to get together about once a week to study, pray, fellowship and eat together.  And that’s what we do.  Some of those things aren’t always easy for all of us, like sharing the stuff we struggle with or praying out loud.  We’ve got the eating thing down pat.

As the years go by, we find ourselves spending more and more time together.  One evening a week is rarely enough for all the things we want to do.  This shows itself when an odd assembly of motorcycles with everything from Goldwings to sport bikes to CAN AM Spyders in it go tearing up #3 highway on Sunday afternoon, or when a few hurried text messages exchanged at seven on Friday can round up the group for ice cream at Studers by eight.  Outings like this, along with stories we exchange throughout the week which turn into inside jokes give us lots of precious and funny moments with Henry and Margaret along the way.  We’d like to share a few with you.

Henry Froese

Dr. Froese

We all know that Henry’s a truck driver, but not many would guess that he moonlights as a cosmetic surgeon when he’s not on the road.  In the morning after breakfast on our last camping trip, he proposed a treatment for the warts on my hands, which, he assured me, would fix the warts for good.  I agreed, so Henry disappeared into his motor home, then reappeared wielding an electric grinder that he’d borrowed from Abe Froese for this very purpose.

He applied the grinder to the warts and bore down.  The grinder screeched and groaned; Tina looked as though she might pass out, but the warts refused to budge.  He laid the grinder aside and went to them with a pair of shears.  Once blood gushed freely from my fingers and pooled in the grass below, they were ready for Henry’s special ointment.

For this, he ushered me round to the side of Pete and Maryanne’s motor home and removed the panel to the battery compartment.  Then he poked a twig into the battery acid and applied it to my sawed-off warts.  Once they bubbled and turned black, Henry declared the operation a success.

Had Henry been a licensed physician, Tina might have been tempted to sue him – the warts grew back bigger and tougher than ever before.  Fortunately, she knows that Henry performed his unorthodox surgery with the best of intentions, even if he enjoyed it just a little too much.

Hilda feels a special connection to Margaret.  They share gentle, peace-loving personalities, but they’ve also experienced something that you and I may not have: that baffled feeling you get when the lawn mower is running and the wheels are turning, but no grass comes out.

Margaret Froese

Margaret Froese

This happened most recently to Margaret.  She set out to mow the grass like any other day.  As the tractor rumbled along, however, she noticed a strange difference.  The lawn was of a good length to be cut, yet only a few blades of grass blew out from under the deck.  She drove on, considering this.  She turned to look behind the tractor.  She turned again to look in front.  There was no discernible difference between the lawn she had cut and the lawn she had not!  She bobbed along, pondering the dilemma this presented.  To keep driving when almost nothing seemed to happen seemed unreasonable, but where to stop?  What if the mower had shaved just enough grass to make the yard look patchy if she stopped?  By the time she made up her mind, she had driven over almost every square foot of lawn.  Then she glanced down at her gears and noticed a subtle difference from the way they looked when she normally mowed:  the mower, although fully engaged, had never been lowered to meet the grass.

She thought about starting all over again, then decided against it.  She drove the tractor to the shop, parked it and chalked the whole shemozzle up to old age.

George claims that he and Henry also have something unusual in common: they’ve both dined on cuisine that most people wouldn’t dream of putting in their mouths – knowingly at least.

Henry came indoors one day, looking for something to eat.  Margaret happened to be in the middle of a project, so she told Henry to take some food she had prepared for him out of the fridge for his lunch.  Henry obliged and began to eat.  He chewed thoughtfully for a while, then asked,

“Why does this food taste funny?”

“Hush”, said Margaret, absorbed in her work.  “Just eat it.”

Henry, rarely one to let food go to waste, obeyed his wife and continued to eat.

Margaret happened to glanced over at Henry’s plate.  Her work forgotten, she jumped up, crying, “Don’t eat that!”

“Why not?” asked Henry.

“Oba Mensch”, said Margaret, “you’re eating dog food.”



We’ve laughed lots with Henry and Margaret through the years, but we’ve witnessed their hearts breaking, too.  When Ellie died five years ago, the group rallied around them.  We were helpless to carry out the thing we wanted most to do, that is, to take away their pain, but we wrapped them in as much love and care as we could.  Perhaps no one was better equipped to do this than Pete and MaryAnne, who also know firsthand the pain of losing a beloved daughter.

Henry and Margaret, we thank God for blessing you with forty precious, jam-packed, love-crazy years of marriage.  We thank you for allowing us to celebrate them with you.  May the Lord grant you many more as you walk with him.  May your love for him and for each other grow sweeter with each passing year, and may pet food in the fridge always be clearly labeled.

We love you.

Henry&Margaret riding

Me, travel?

Summertime.  It’s a time for travel and vacation for most Canadians.  Albert and I fall outside of that norm, though.  That is, Albert takes periodic trips with my brother and his hunting buddies while I stay home to tend the farm and feed the dogs a steady diet of raw meat so that they’re primed to attack intruders while my husband’s away.

That was a joke.  I don’t feed them raw meat to make them mean.  A loaded shotgun beside my pillow provides all the protection I need.

That was a joke too.  My black belt in Karate negates any need for firearms. attack dog

If you’ve met me, I don’t even need to disclaim that one.

It’s not that Albert doesn’t want to go anywhere with me.  There are many places he’d like us to visit but I can’t seem to drum up enough enthusiasm to go there.  For many years, we’ve both just figured that I don’t want to travel.

Two weeks ago, a conversation in which Albert tried to convince me to drive to the east coast with him taught me that that is not entirely correct.  Our dialogue went something like this:

Albert:  Don’t you ever want to see something different?

Me:  Different?  You see one Mac’s store, you’ve seen them all.

Albert: Yeah but you’ve never been there before.

Me:        I might go if something interesting happened there.

Albert:  Well, isn’t that where those people landed, the really mean ones with the steel helmets?

Me:        The Vikings?

Albert:  Yeah.

Me:        I dunno.                                           viking

We make for dubious historians, but our conversation revealed something else too:  I do want to go places.  I am curious about things I’ve never seen.  But to draw me, my destination needs to have captured my imagination with its mystery, its stirring history long before I haul the luggage out of the closet.  So now that I think about it, I have travelled.  I often drive to Lucan, Ontario to visit the haunts and historical sites of the town’s infamous family, the Donnellys of Roman Line.  I can’t help that it only takes an hour to get there.

Albert’s travelling needs are less complicated: if he’s never been there, it’ll do.  Whether or not its charms permeate his soul is irrelevant.  Getting there is the point.

Our distinct travelling styles explain why I usually stay home and why looking at other people’s vacation pictures leaves me cold.  Hey, I’d love to tour North Lees Hall, the sixteenth century tower house in Derbyshire, England that inspired Charlotte Brontë’s Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre.  Or scramble over the Yorkshire moors where twin souls Catherine and Heathcliff fled to escape book learning, bossy older brothers and every other component that might have molded them into ordinary, civilized beings.  I can’t help that it costs a month of Albert’s salary to get there.

Wild British Landscape

This new insight gives me hope that Albert and I might become compatible traveling companions yet.  If I’m able to unearth a bit of mystery or romance in our destination to draw me there before we set out, it just may work.  Granted, state championship tractor pulls in Duluth might tax even the brightest of imaginations but I shall pray that I’m never called upon to romanticize such an excursion.

I’m a bit nervous about putting my theory to work.  I’m picturing bad food, driving boredom and a testy temper.  But I’m going to try it anyway.  Unleashing my inner demons on someone who inadvertantly steps on their chains isn’t the empowering catharsis it’s made out to be in movies, and no matter how right I think I am when I decide to bark at someone else, it ain’t them that looks like a bitch.  But I digress.

Happy trails everyone.  Wherever they may lead you, and why.


Meine antwortete Gebet (My answered prayer)

I must be careful about what I pray for.  I’ve been praying for a reason to follow my interest, my compulsion almost, to study High German.  Time is precious so I wanted a reason to invest the time and energy it will take to learn it, a goal beyond merely having another “Sprache” in my little repertoire of languages.

I don’t often go into the office of the agency for which I interpret Low German.  I get my assignments via telephone, so there’s German textnot much reason to.  I did two days ago though, to coach a Low German interpreter in training.  On my way out later, I ran into Adela, the agency’s director, and stopped to chat with her.

When I mentioned to her that I’m studying High German, her eyes grew wide, she went all animated on me and began to gesture.  I don’t remember her exact words, but they amounted to,

“REALLY!?  Once you’ve learned the language, do we have work for you!!”

She went on to explain that only one High German interpreter is employed with the agency, and he’s got lots of work.

I had never enquired at the agency about work as a High German interpreter.  I presumed that any European migrant to Canada whose first language was German must be a white-collar professional with English as their second.  Wunderbar!

Now that my wish is granted though, doubts are settling over me like a cold, grey blanket…

It will take me at least a year of intense study just to master good conversational German, never mind legal and medical terminology.  Will the position still be open when I’m ready?  Why would God answer such a prayer, anyway?  How will it matter in the grand scheme of things whether or not little ol’ Tina Wall can tell Frau Schwanke to take off everything but her underwear, put on the blue gown and tie it at the back…what on earth makes me think I can ever become so fluent in a new language that someone would pay me to speak it?  I will NEVER understand German pronouns and their cases.  There’s a black and white creature that sheds fur all over my sofa but is it “Der Katze”?  “Die Katze”?  Oder “Das Katze”?  Wer weiß?

And on they go.  But I’ve decided that my doubts are just that – doubts, not deal breakers, not decision makers.  Besides, once you meet my little mentor, you’ll understand why learning Hochdeutsch is a veritable treat for me.  Or (and this is more likely) you may want to throw up, but in either case, you will know why learning Hochdeutsch is a veritable treat for me.  Meet Heintje.

Heintje photobucket

 Heintje Simons was a famous German and Dutch-speaking child singer and actor from the Netherlands in the late sixties and seventies.  His melodies are simple and his lyrics are even simpler; he sings mostly to his Mama or about how much he loves her.  But his powerful, angelic singing voice, his impossible cuteness and the loving, unspoiled disposition he reveals through his acting roles have completely charmed me.  I retire with ranks of sighing Mütter, nuns and Omas to dabbing soggy handkerchiefs to teary eyes whilst the record player cranks out scratchy Lieder sung by a cherub in an ill-fitting suit, the boy Heintje.gramophone  My understanding of the High German language has progressed rapidly since I began to listen to Heintje music, watch Heintje movies and read simple books by various German authors.  (must find Heintje books.)

But understanding the language is one thing; speaking it is quite another.  That’s what I aim to begin to do, starting now.  God’s blessing on you all; Gottes Segen für euch alle.

Of Moose And Men

There’s a hollow clearing in the woods about eighty kilometers south of Kakabecca Falls and twenty-six kilometers west of Thunder Bay.


woodsy path

Every autumn, Albert and about five other men travel sixteen hours to reach it.  These sons of Cain congregate in the dell for a week of male camaraderie and all that that entails – tearing around the woods and fields on four-wheelers, eating red meat laced with Habanero peppers and hunting moose.



For all their need to escape to the great north and “rough it”, they’re housed quite comfortably.  They outfitted an old tractor-trailer with windows and a door and swathed it in the most arresting shade of blue paint I’ve ever seen.


 They furnished it with a fully functional kitchen and a wood stove for heat,


sleeping quarters beyond the kitchen,


and a shelf for toiletries.


When the beds are packed away on the way to and from camp, there’s even room to pack an extra vehicle.


The boys are a motley bunch.  They fill evenings around the wood stove with theological debate, hearty drinking and impromptu Bible study.  Sometimes all three happen at the same time.


The oldest of the men, Wishbone, is the camp cook.  His real name is Jacob, but with his prickly personality, he’s the epitome of Wishbone, the cattle drive cook from Rawhide, Albert’s favourite old western TV show.


Paul Brinegar as Wishbone on right

Wishbone (Jacob) is a capable outdoorsman.  He can whip up dinner for seven, wash dishes, then walk into the woods and shoot a bull moose for supper while the rest of the gang (who haven’t seen more than a hoof print in three days) range up to thirty kilometers from camp on their all-terrain vehicles in search of wild game.  Wishbone takes good care of the men, on his terms.  You’re not late to supper and you don’t order the cook to get up and refill your coffee cup when you camp with Wishbone.

The boys climb into their bunk beds and sleep in harmony every night – six-part harmony, that is.  When Albert describes the men snoring, I wonder how any of them get any sleep.  Some of them even snore both ways – drawn-out, seismic tremolo on the way in bridged by sonorous vibrato of the tonsillar pillars on the way out.

Albert is impossibly cute when he sleeps.

Albert is impossibly cute when he sleeps.

They bring a very serviceable shower to the site,


but now and then, some of the men like to disrobe and wade into a cold, clear lake nearby.  How I relish the thought of posting a picture of four middle-age men cavorting in the water under the bracing northern sky wearing little more than farmer’s tans.  But I can’t, for the simple reason that Albert won’t let me.  Before the men broke camp that week, they made a solemn pact that none of the pictures should ever surface on the Internet.  I am guilty of sharing one of the pictures with a friend, but Albert was alone in that particular photo and we both trust the person I shared it with implicitly.  Besides, I reckon if the men are so anxious that those photos never see the light of day, why, then they should have kept their unmentionables shrouded in that same dark place.

Once Albert comes home with the spoils of the hunt, moose makes a regular appearance on our fall and winter menu.  If the animal is killed properly (read “mercifully”) and butchered correctly, there is usually no need to marinate the meat in vinegar or cook it with onions or to employ any other method commonly used to make wild game edible.  It will taste no different from beef, or perhaps beef will taste no different from moose.

Moose enchiladas,

 moose chops 004

moose fajitas

 Moose fajita

and savory moose chops are a few of the delicious moose meals we enjoy.

 savory moose chops 023

I’ve yet to try my hand at moose loaf and moose medley.  Wishbone might be disposed to share a moose recipe or two with me.  If I ask nicely.


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