Monthly Archives: January 2017

Paved with Good Intentions: Ruth Lake (1967)

ruth-lake-bc
Ruth Lake fishing cabin. Main lodge behind.

For about 20 years, my uncle owned Ruth Lake Lodge, an off-road fishing place, rural and inconvenient. It had four spartan cabins and a warm kitchen in the main building, which was always under construction. Despite my relatives’ warm hospitality, I didn’t enjoy our visits much, as we sometimes had to camp out or sleep under bare roof beams in some half-built room.

Also, the Lodge was difficult to get to. Set half-a-mile off Forest Grove Road,  just north of tiny 100 Mile House, the lodge’s only vehicle access was a hand-hewn path through the bush, a path barely wide enough for one car. It was a veritable  obstacle course.

One spring stands out. There we sat, a family of four, in our low-slung Rambler Rebel, halfway down Forest Grove Road, with no habitation in sight, just an endless line of birch and alder lining the gravel road to the far horizon. Cowboy country lay beyond, sprawling ranches rife with cattle. Roads were dusty in summer but muddy at spring breakup. In short, we were 400 miles north of Vancouver in the heart of BC’s Cariboo region.

1967-amc-rebel-sst-2
Rambler Rebel ’67

Luckily – score one for us – we had found the turn-off to my uncle’s property, which was always difficult to spot. Now all we had to do was hit a couple of planks and squeeze our two-door over a muddy trench and through a small gap in the brush. No small wonder we hesitated.

“Looks fine!” said Dad, putting on a good face.

“Yes!” agreed Mom. “He’s even put some boards down to cover the mud.”

In the back seat, my younger brother and I exchanged looks.

Dad cranked the wheel left and eased the car onto the first muddy plank. There was a loud squooshing sound. I held my breath. Would we get the second wheel onto the other plank? We did, barely. The boards knocked crazily, and I had visions of sinking into a mucky bog.

My father hunched over the dash as he inched over the boards and into unknown territory. I gripped my door handle and saw my brother do the same. This was edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Squelch went the tires agaipn, the brown ooze kissing our mud flaps. Any moment now we’d be axle-dee, I figured. But somehow we inched along, creeping and crawling until the cow path grew hard beneath us.

Our troubles were far from over, however. In counterpoint to the mud behind us, the trail itself was hard and rocky. The car pitched like a theme park jalopy as we picked our way along, the speedometer barely registering.

The convex surface wound through the brush, threatening to high-centre us at every moment. Branches scraped the windows while huge boulders nestled into our whitewalls. We heard hubcaps scraping on stone. Puddles came and went, both large and small. Potholes abounded, and at times, the back seat seemed higher than the front.

Still, we pressed on.  As I lurched left and right, I remember wondering why anyone would buy a fishing lodge with such poor road access. My uncle had four children, any one of whom might lop off a foot or a finger chopping firewood. Had he not thought of this?

Thwack!

Swak!

It was death by a thousand cuts for our poor, low-slung Rambler. Without our rolled-up windows, those branches could have taken our eyes out.Still, we persevered. When we finally limped through the last pothole and bounced over the last sharp boulder, the lodge was a welcome sight indeed. My father threw the Rambler into park and sat for a minute in the makeshift parking area. None of the rest of us moved. We just sat there.

After a minute, we saw my uncle striding towards us from the lake, surrounded by dogs and full of his usual good humour. It always surprised me to see this shorter version of my father.

“‘Hello!” he cried as we eased ourselves out of the car and found our footing. “We’ve been waiting for you!”

“Sorry we’re late,” grinned Dad. “We ran into a bit of traffic through Hundred Mile.”

“Well, no matter. You’re here now. C’mon in and see the family.”

He stopped halfway up the stairs and turned suddenly toward us.

“Oh, by the way!” he said. “How did you like my road improvements?”

-30-

I Should Have Listened to Dear Old Auntie

 

mink-stole-grannyWhen one is eighteen, who thinks the elderly know anything? Very few, and certainly not me. Turns out they do know a thing or two. But back then, I looked askance at the aged. And because I didn’t listen to my dear old aunt, I now have terrible posture, muscle pulls and occasional neck problems.

“Such a lovely girl!” she would say to my mother, while pressing her fingers deep into into my lower back, “Stand up tall, dear. You’ll be sorry later on if you don’t. There now! Tuck in that tummy!” She herself stood ramrod straight and wore elegant below-the-knee pencil skirts with matching jackets. She also wore “fascinator” hats, high heels and clever little mink stoles, the kind with pointy faces and beady eyes still attached. She and my uncle lived in the then-very-elegant West End, among chock-a-block apartment buildings (highest density in Vancouver). He was a dredging foreman until he retired, at which time he played cards for money once a week (He once played poker with Elvis Presley….no lie!). Auntie always made sure Uncle was well-turned-out, and in her copious free time, maintained an avid membership with the “ladies who lunch” set. An elegant pair, to be sure.

But about posture, she was right. Now 68, my spine curves where it shouldn’t, stemming from years of unregulated slouching, and my sciatica flares up like a brush fire. And since computers, the slouching has only worsened. Because I didn’t listen, not only do I have bouts of sciatica, but I frequently get a pulled hamstring from weak core muscles. Why not? I’m not using them to maintain good posture, so of course they go slack! In fact, I figure the only reason I can still walk is that I swim several times a week. The time it takes to dress and undress at the pool, to shower and shampoo, to pack and unpack, drive and organize….all this is bearable only due to the increased sense of well-being I feel after pounding out 20 or more laps (er….lengths, I’m told, not laps. There’s a difference). Not to mention the glory of the hot tub afterward and the blasting of strong water jets onto that sciatic devil nerve. I come out of the pool feeling supported. My legs feel strong and foundational.

Still, I’m a champion sloucher in the off times. Never gave it a thought when young – never had to. I was athletic, enough said. That seems to have changed a tad. Now I must counter the effects of my bad slouching habit. Every morning I must ease my aching bod onto the floor and coax those hamstrings into relaxation; I must stretch those quads, work the adductors and build those abs so that I may be afforded the great privilege of continuing to walk. And believe me, at 68, it IS a privilege.

Who knew it would come to this?

Drop something? It’s those household gods.

The idea of protective household deities has been around since the Romans, but my mother created a twist on the concept that I use to this day. Instead of relying on “household gods” for blessings, protection or other positive outcomes, she saw them as mean little devils, forever confounding her attempts to perform the most routine household tasks. I think she was right.

We all have household gods.  Drop the bread, butter side down? Dribble beet juice on a cotton shirt during dinner? Miss the garbage can with a careless paper toss? Trip on a floor mat and do a face plant? Bust a gut trying to open a jam jar?

It’s those pesky household gods.

How maddening to know they lie in wait, sitting back to laugh when they screw us up. And it happens every single day. When we drop a pill on the kitchen floor and it rolls under the stove or the fridge, that’s proof these gods exist. Never does anything tiny roll to a stop in plainsylph-image sight, lying starkly visible against a contrasting tile floor. No, no! It’s axiomatic that a stray coffee bean, jelly bean, navy bean, Mr. Bean or Orson Bean, will all roll under the fridge or stove as if drawn by magnets.

And consider the constant home gadget failures. Can openers that won’t can-open, felt pens that dry up just because you left the top off. Food processor blades that will NOT detach after use, not even after you finally locate the parts diagram in some obscure cupboard and pore over it for clues. Other tricks the gods like are vacuum cleaner hoses that detach at the slightest pull when you’re halfway down the hall from the canister and have to trudge ALL the way back to re-hook the thing. Sometimes it’s a full 20 feet!

All this is mischief caused by household gods.

And what about those over-zealous refrigerator ice machines that miss your cup and spew ice onto the floor? I hope we’re not still persevering with those.

The list of small, daily catastrophes is endless, and there’s a special place in hell for the digital cadre of household gods. Don’t even get me started on them! I could write a book.

LOL.

Back again, published!

Marg-pencil sketch

It’s been awhile, but life happened for a bit + I lost focus. Now I’m back, renewed, recommitted, and published! Yes, I’m thrilled to report that an online magazine has just published one of my short stories. The site is called Short Fiction Break – check it out below, or at shortfictionbreak.com

“New Girl – 1963” is the featured story for January 5th, 2017.

Here’s a sample:

“I still remember her first day in Grade 10 French. We all stared at her, unaware of our rudeness, unmindful of her discomfort. We always stared at anyone new. Under our gaze, she grew awkward, her pink cheeks turning scarlet. That high, Scottish colouring could deepen but not disappear. She would never need blusher.”

……………………………………………..

Read the full story and share your thoughts in the comments section. 

New Girl – 1963   (link)

Happy reading!
(from the Short Fiction Break Team)