Monday, 16 May 2022

Don't Panic, Just Go With Them

    In December, 2005 my brother got married in Macau.  Amazingly, he and his wife treated my whole family to a trip to Hong Kong and then on to Macau for their wedding. 

    I was aware of China’s authoritarian ways and I entered Hong Kong with a bit of wariness, but that soon disappeared when we actually got there and experienced the efficiency of the very modern subway, the extravagance of the shopping areas, and the safety I felt being out on the streets with the thousands of Chinese.  After days of exploring Hong Kong, it was time to take the ferry over to Macau.

    I don’t really remember getting to the ferry terminal, but I do remember the tightly packed crowd of people, all shoulder to shoulder, slowly shuffling toward the doorways that led to the ferries.  Since Macau was more tightly controlled by China than Hong Kong at the time, I assume once we got to one of the doorways, we had to show our passport before we were allowed through into a huge room, which was again packed tightly with people.  My family had been rather dispersed as they went through the various doorways, but we managed to find each other in the very crowded room and regrouped.

    We were all standing there together in a group excitedly talking, when some official-looking men made their way through the crowd, making a beeline toward us, more precisely, making a beeline toward me.  They looked me in the face and began talking to me, but I didn’t understand what they were saying.

    It soon became clear that they wanted me to come with them.  While I think I kept my exterior calm, inside I was confused and getting panicky.  China’s authoritarian practices surfaced in my brain and I didn’t know what was going on or why they seemed so intent that I should come with them.  I knew I hadn’t done anything, so I left my family and went with the men as they worked their way back through the mass of people and back through one of the doors we had entered through.

    My mind was racing through all sorts of scenarios of hardcore questioning and being locked up in a Chinese prison without knowing what was going on.

    The authorities took me over to a man standing in the crowd and said something to him, then he looked at me, shook his head.  I obviously was not the man they were seeking and with great relief the officials motioned to me to go back into the large room where my family awaited worriedly. 

    It was such a relief to get back to my family and the security of things I knew.  All these years later I remember the fear I began to experience on that day, but I still don’t know why I was picked out or what  the whole thing was all about.

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Sunday, 15 May 2022


    Winter has such an overriding presence for me that as soon as one winter is over, I immediately start working on gathering firewood for the winter to come.  You can see how much firewood I have cut and split already.  Luckily, despite my worries during last winter’s cold snaps, I did have some firewood left over, so that I didn’t have to start from scratch on my firewood supply for next year.  It would be nice to get more, but now other things, like the garden, are demanding my attention.  

    As I age, all of the work requirements of keeping up the maintenance of our place becomes more and more difficult, but hopefully these old bones I can keep muddling through.

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Saturday, 14 May 2022


    I was drawn to the backlit young Aspen leaves yesterday when I took this photo, but there were other things going on also.  It as showering as I shot into the sunlight, and the newly leafing trees in the background were being highlighted by the sun behind them.  I thought the grass, which is getting greener by the day, added a nice anchor to the photo.   I took the scene from our balcony.

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Friday, 13 May 2022

How Are Those Brake Lines Looking?

    Our dog Kona is extremely obsessive when it comes to squirrels.  She is so impatient and demanding about everything else, but when a squirrels is involved, she will spend hours patiently not moving, just sitting and watching, sitting and watching.  We welcome this squirrel behavior, because normally we have to watch Kona like a hawk because she gets into so much trouble when left on her own, but with squirrels, we don’t have to watch her, because we know where she is, just sitting there watching.

    Yesterday a squirrel must have run up and taken shelter in my truck engine, because Kona spent the entire afternoon sitting there under the truck with her head up in the wheel well and engine compartment.  She would periodically scamper to the other side of the truck to get a better vantage point, but her gaze was cemented on the squirrels hiding place.  We were amazed at her determination.  She would just patiently sit there, wagging her tail, whenever she sensed the squirrel move.  

    I realize that situating herself under a vehicle can be a dangerous place for her to be, but we never go anyplace without Kona inside the vehicle or inside the house, and it is sure a nice change to have the squirrel look after Kona for a while.

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Thursday, 12 May 2022

Pushing A Lawnmower

    I grew up hating grass.  From the time I was 8 years old I have been pushing lawnmowers around in circles on lawns, cutting the grass.  Fortunately at present, grass cutting is not a priority, but only because it has been a cold spring and the grass is only now started to turn green.  Luckily where we live in the Interior of British Columbia, during the summer, grass grows rather slowly, but it does grow and so periodically I am forced to crank up the lawn mower and mow the lawn.

    My hatred for mowing began during the summer after third grade, when I got (or was given) the job of mowing the small neighborhood cemetery that was just a house away from where we lived.  I had to push the family lawnmower along the road, over to the cemetery while carrying the gas can.  Once I had arrived I said a silent prayer, hoping that the lawnmower would start.  When it did, I began mowing; back and forth, around the gravestones, then back and forth again for an hour or so, until I was finished.  Then with the front of my T-shirt alI dirty from wiping the sweat off of my face, I pushed the lawnmower back home, awkwardly toting the gas can in one hand that was also pushing the lawn mower.

    I did get paid for mowing the cemetery, a whopping $3 for each time it was mowed.  Of course $3 was worth a lot more than it is today, and it was always gratifying to have the money, but it never did really lessen the hatred I had of mowing the grass.

    I always remember in the sixth grade when my teacher asked the class what they did all summer, and I answered,  “I mowed a cemetery”, he cleverly quipped, “Oh, you worked with a lot of people under you.”

    Mowing got a lot worse when my family moved into the new house they had built, a bit further down the road, in what previously had been a field.  Our new house was wonderful, with a lot more room and more modern, but the down side for me was that it came with a yard (which still seemed like a field) that was way too large.  

    Mowing that lawn during those hot humid Indiana summer days was hell.  Sweat rolled down my face as I pushed the mower back and forth, back and forth across the lawn.  What made the task fifty times worse was the fact that we lived just a house away from a country club, and every time I would look in that direction, I could see the country club kids, splashing and frolicking around in the country club swimming pool.  Boy, did that make me hate lawn mowing.

    I continued mowing lawns into my university days, when I used the job to earn money.  It paid for clothes, record albums, and even some guitars, but I hated doing it.  As I mowed, I dreamed of lawns with grass like golf course greens, that stayed low, and never seemed to grow, and dreams of houses with “lawns” made of concrete which was painted green, that never had to be mowed.  However once I was finished the job, my hatred dissipated, and I would wipe the sweat off of my face and I happily slid the cash into my wallet.

    Below is a photo of Oak Ridge Cemetery, my first paying mowing job.


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Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Sorry, Mac. You Were Right to Bark

    Here is an incident from 2012 that features Macintosh, our laidback Old English Sheepdog.

    Bark.....Bark, Bark.....Bark.....Bark.....Bark...Bark....

    “What’s wrong with that dog?”   Mac generally doesn’t bark.  Well, maybe sometimes, when a squirrel gets on his nerve.  I went back to my book.

    Bark.... Bark, Bark.

    I was reading, and had just two more pages to finish in the novel, but I didn’t want Mac to get into the habit of habitual barking, so I put the book down, got up, and walked down the stairs, opened the front door, to yell at him to stop. 

    When I opened the door, I was gobsmacked.  My eyes saw, but my brain just temporarily shut down.  It seemed like I was in fantasyland, because standing right there by the porch were two pigs looking at me, while Mac stopped barking, happy that I was there to help him.

    When my brain began firing again, I tried to chase them away.  They were friendly enough, but seemed happy to be in our front yard.  

    Where did they come from, I wondered.  The only person in the neighborhood that I had heard had some pigs, lived a mile away.  I called my wife to come out with a broom to keep the pigs from destroying things, while I went back inside to make some phone calls.

    I called the guy I thought had pigs, and found that his phone was disconnected.  Then I called my next door neighbor, but he didn’t answer, so I left a message about having two pigs in my front yard and asked if he knew who might own them. 

    I then called the neighbor on the other side of my house and explained to their teenaged daughter why I was calling.  She laughed and said they didn’t own any pigs.

    Having learned nothing from my phone calls, I went back outside and took over from my wife.  I decided the best course of action would be to try to herd the pigs into my barnyard, which had a fence all around it. 

    When I tried to herd the pigs, Mac’s herding instinct kicked in and he happily joined me, barking and darting around.  Unfortunately, Mac always seemed to go the wrong way, blocking the pigs from going into the paddock.  Eventually, in frustration, I put Mac into the house and returned to deal with the pigs alone. 

    I managed to herd one of the porkers into the paddock, but the other took off in the other direction.  The captured one headed down the fence line and the which inspired the free one to follow him, but on the other side of the fence.  

    I grabbed a rope and made a noose, thinking I would try to lasso the free pig, but it was starting to get nervous and beginning to think that I was untrustworthy, so he didn’t let me get too close.  I scrambled behind him through brush and around the woodpile, but I couldn’t catch him.

    About that time, Bruce, the next door neighbor I had called, came through an opening on our property line with his two dogs, and I was happy learn that the pigs were, in fact, his.  With his help, we managed to get and secure the freed pig into the barnyard with his buddy, at which point Bruce went back home to get some “slop” to tempt the pigs back home.  Meanwhile, the pigs were busying themselves, rooting around the plants in the paddock.

    Bruce soon returned with a bucket of slop and two hot dog buns, and like the Pied Piper being followed by the rats, soon Bruce, along with his dogs, followed by the two pigs, were all parading back toward their home.  

    Another exciting episode of “Life in McBride” had come to an end.

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Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Ambrosia Apples

    Whenever I am at the grocery looking for apples, I always seek out Ambrosias.  Not only does it have an amazingly mild honey, fruity taste, but it’s origin story is very memorable to me.

    Many years ago I was listening to CBC radio as they were talking about BC apples. It seems there was one orchard whose owner noticed that every year during the picker’s lunch breaks, the pickers would always gather under one particular apple tree in the orchard.   They would always grab apples off of the tree to augment their lunch. 

    Curious, the owner walked down to that particular tree, and tried one of its apples for himself.  He discovered just how unique and delicious they tasted.  He isolated and bred the tree and its apples became the “Ambrosia” apple. 

    I sat there in front of the radio wishing I could taste one of those Ambrosia apples, but I could never find any in our local grocery store, and slowly over time, the story took a back place in my memory. Then a couple of years later wanting a snack, I grabbed one of the apples that my wife had put in the fridge.  I walked back to the living room, settled back down in front of the TV and bit into it. 

    WOW!, what a delicious taste. I got out of my chair and back went to the fridge, opened the door, and read the label on the apples in the bag—AMBROSIA.  Finally that long ago desire to taste an Ambrosia apple was realized, and I was not disappointed.  It has been my “go-to” apple choice ever since.

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