Saturday 28 February 2015

Fraser River Photos

    Here are some shots of the Upper Fraser River as seen around McBride.  The Fraser is a mighty river (800 miles 1300kms in length) that begins near Mt. Robson in the Canadian Rockies, flows NW to Prince George, then turns south and carves its way across BC to Vancouver where it empties into the Pacific Ocean.  Here in McBride the winter’s ice has now melted and open water is again visible.

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Friday 27 February 2015

Lisbon Earthquake

    A couple of weeks ago, John Oliver did a funny bit about Google Search about how when you write in a subject, topics related to that subject pop up on the screen to help shortcut your search.  These suggested topics were supposedly the most popular searches done by others.  He used the example of writing “moon.” into Google.  His pop-ups were really funny.  I just tried it and got four suggestions:  Moon Phases, Moonrise Kingdom, moonshine, and Moon Palace Cancun.  It is bizarre to think that those are the most popular topics that people are looking for when they type “moon” into Google.
    I read a lot of historical fiction.  I was reading a novel yesterday about a Jewish man in Lisbon during the middle 1750’s who was struggling against the Inquisition.  The author seems to have done a lot of historical research before writing the novel.  I came to a very exciting scene where the main character was finally in a life and death confrontation with the main inquisitor and suddenly there was a huge earthquake which destroyed the city.
    The situation in the novel almost seemed too convenient and contrived, I had never heard about any big earthquake in Lisbon even though earthquakes have always been an interest of mine, and I thought I knew about all of the big ones.   My curiosity took me to Google to see if there was any record of a big earthquake in Lisbon.
    I typed in “Lisbon” and as you can see by the screenshot above, the number four suggestion from Google was “lisbon earthquake.”  That amazed me even more than finding out there really was a huge earthquake (Richter 8-9) in Lisbon in 1755.  What surprised me was that this earthquake that I had never heard of was the 4th most popular search under “Lisbon”--either that or Google has so much information about me that they know what it is I am looking for.

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Thursday 26 February 2015

Koeneman House

    I find old log houses fascinating.  We noticed the old Koeneman house immediately after we moved to McBride.  Not only was it a well built old house but it was nestled nicely on a rise beside the Fraser River with beautiful views of both McBride Peak and the Cariboo Mts on the other side of the valley.  Even though it was in fairly good shape, it hadn’t been lived in for some time and was beginning to have some structural problems.
    The Koeneman’s were an early pioneering farm family in the Robson Valley.  I have always heard that Fred Koeneman (I think that was his name) used to also work as a fire lookout, spending a lot of his summer days up in the lookout on McBride Peak (that is the mountain you see in the background).  I also heard that our home is situated it what was originally a potato field owned by Koeneman’s.
    In the 1980’s the Robson Valley Art Council took up the Koeneman House as a project.  They had hopes of doing some restoration and using the building for sales of locally produced arts and crafts.  They secured a grant, and dug and built a cement basement as a new foundation to the building, however the building was never really used as a store, because the Art Council never had the money, time, and organization required to pay personnel to run the place.
    Eventually the building was taken over by the Regional District (sort of a county government).  They took over the whole property and the whole thing is now Koeneman Park.  I took this photo yesterday while walking the dog in the park.

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Wednesday 25 February 2015

Cat on a Cold Tin Roof

    Lucifer likes to be on the roof.  Whenever she is done her exploring outside, and has trouble forcing the back door open with a head-butt,  she goes to the back porch, claws her way up the post that supports the balcony, then hangs around on the roof until we rescue her.  In a way it is a good that she has discovered a place that she can get too where she will be safe from danger, but it is a bit of a hassle to continually have to get her off of the roof.

My paintings can be seen at:

Tuesday 24 February 2015

The Lure of Spring

    In a place like Canada where there is a long winter, there is of course quite a strong longing for spring.    As a result people are willing to place a lot of value on anything that appears to show we are moving closer to spring.  With the warm weather +9C (48C) that we had yesterday it is hard not to conclude that spring is just around the corner.  After all the snow is disappearing, the roads are clear, and Joan even collected some pussy willows.
    It is so hard not to be lulled into thinking that winter is over, but realistically, it is still February and there is bound to be cold temperatures and snow still to hit us in the face.
    The photo shows Beaver Mountain, from Jeck Road in the Robson Valley yesterday.

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Monday 23 February 2015

Weathered Wood

    Yesterday I took some photos of weathered wood on some of the hangers at the McBride air field.  Here are two of them. 

Sunday 22 February 2015

Open Water on the Fraser River

    While a lot of North America is shivering under frigid Arctic air, the Robson Valley has been experiencing a very mild February with above-freezing temperatures.  As a result the valley bottom is clear of snow and the ice on the Fraser River has melted.  It is always nice to see open water.  
    Last year the open water didn’t appear on our section of the Fraser until the first third of April, so we are a good month ahead of where we were last year.  Here are some shots of the ice that has piled up on the shoreline.

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Saturday 21 February 2015

Hiding from the Vacuum Cleaner

    This morning after walking around the pond with Skye, I came into the house and heard a noise coming from the living room.  It was Joan vacuuming the floor.  As I bent over to take off my boots, I put my hand up towards the freezer to brace myself, and as I did I glanced upward.  There was our cat Lucifer, tucked in behind some boxes in a tight little space under a shelf.  She was keeping herself safe from that scary vacuum cleaner.

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Friday 20 February 2015

My Brilliant (?) Teaching Career

    When I was attending university, I couldn’t really decide what I wanted to do in life.  My mother said, “Why not major in education, you can always get a job as a teacher.”
    Since I couldn’t make up my mind about other majors, that is what I did.  It worked out well for me because it did enable me to immigrate to Canada, where I found a teaching job available up in a lumber mill that no Canadian would take.  I was happy to take the job teaching in the remote one room school.  Above you can see a photo of me and my school.
    While many people talk about starting at the bottom and working their way up.  My teaching career took the opposite track.  I started at the top and worked my way down.  In that first teaching job, I was the whole school.  I was the principal, the teacher, the maintenance man, the secretary, and even the “bus” driver (actually it was a pickup truck that I drove down to the shore of Takla Lake to pick up the kids from an Indian family that lived down there.) 
    After 3 years of teaching in the isolated camp, Joan and I needed to get out, and I took a teaching job in Avola, BC.  There my position declined somewhat.  I was no longer a principal, but was given the title “Head Teacher” in the two room school.  As I mentioned yesterday, we hated living in Avola, despite having a highway where we could actually drive away to other places. 
    A year was enough time to spend in Avola, so after the school year was over I resigned and we moved to McBride, BC.  I didn’t have a teaching job there, but we bought a home, and I hoped that a job would materialize.  I put my name on the substitute teacher’s list, and did a lot of subbing, but a full time jog never materialized, but eventually I got a job making maps for the BC Forest Service.  
    Thus ended my teaching career, from principal to substitute teacher in just 5 years.

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Thursday 19 February 2015

Big Little McBride,BC

    You are looking at a photo of the Village of McBride, BC, our town.  Obviously the picture was taken during the summer, and when I pulled out the photo, it was startling for me to see all the greens, after seeing so much gray and white as we go through our winter months.  Anyway, that is off the topic of this blog.  
    McBride was at one time the smallest village in British Columbia, I don’t know if that is still true, but it has a population of about 700 people.  A lot of people find surprising when I tell them, is that McBride is the largest community Joan and I have lived in, since immigrating to Canada back in 1973.
    When we first arrived in Canada I took a job teaching in a one-room school in an isolated lumber camp where there were no roads in and out.  There was just a mill, bunkhouses, a cookhouse, office building, and recreation center (where I held school).  Later a company store was built and a mobile school building was moved in.
    We had no TV reception, only intermittent radio at night, no telephones (until later when a microwave public phone was installed beside the office.)  We lived there 3 years, only being able to leave camp at Christmas, Spring Break, and summer vacation, but we were young and adventurous and survived.
    Finally “camp” life got to us and I took a job as “Head Teacher” in a two room school in a small place called Avola.  It was a hell hole, but having never been there before, all we could go when considering the job, was its location on a map.  On a map, it seemed promising, at least it was on a highway.  But when we finally got there we found life there pretty intolerable.   
    Even though Avola was on a highway, it didn’t have much to offer--a gas station, a small convenience store, and later a pub.  For us to buy groceries or do our laundry we had to drive 45 miles one way to Clearwater.  We only lasted one year in Avola.
    Then we moved to McBride.  Here we we found two groceries, 4 gas stations, a hardware store, clothing stores, a bank, and a laundromat.  It felt to us like a big city.  For the first time, we were living in a place that had people our own age, with similar values (back to the land lifestyles, the arts, and the environment).  We bought a small hobby farm of our own, and have lived here ever since.

You can see my paintings at:

Wednesday 18 February 2015

I've Looked at Clouds

    It probably says a lot about what a low threshold I have for excitement, that I found myself all exhilarated about the clouds I saw yesterday on my walk with the dog.  I thought they were quite unusual,  displaying wispy waves and twirls as they moved quickly above the Cariboo Mountains.  Here are some shots.

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Tuesday 17 February 2015

One Hundred Years in the Future

    The Robson Valley Museum Society recently held an exhibition of local newspapers from the last 100 years.  Then they held a contest where participants were supposed to create a front page from a Robson Valley newspaper 100 years in the future.  Above you can see my entry.  I guess it is probably pretty clear I don’t have much faith in the future.
    Assuming that by the year 2115 there would probably be a complete collapse of society, due to some disaster, be it natural, ecological, or the destructive inclination of humankind, I tried to think of what form of public information might be left to the survivors.  I finally decided on a piece of paper tacked onto the trunk of a tree.  To do the message I found the oldest piece of paper I could, and wrote the message on it using a piece of charcoal from the wood stove.

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Monday 16 February 2015

Catching up with Modernity

    People in small African villages have cell phones.  All of Asia seem to have had them for years.  They have become a normal part of life in the industrial world where even little kids seem to have them attached to their ears.  It seemed that most of humanity have them, and as of today, even I have a cell phone.
    Yes, I have taken another step away from my luddite existence, and now I have my own cell phone.  I’m not sure what is happening to me over the past year.  First I got a log splitter so I wouldn’t have to split my firewood by hand, then I got the snowblower, so I wouldn’t have to shovel my driveway by hand, and now I have a cell phone.  Part of me quakes with embarrassment.
    My new phone is actually Joan’s old phone.  She has had mobile phones for almost a decade, but I have never really felt the need to have one.  Joan often insisted that I take her’s along with me in case of an emergency when I travel, and I have used hers on several occasions, but I was happy enough without one.
    But after she got herself a new one, we were left with the old one that still worked, sitting unused, so I got myself a very basic plan (without data) so that I could join humanity and walk around with one glued to my ear.   Actually I doubt that it will be used more than 6 times all year, but we will see.  It does give one a bit of security, god knows you can’t find a working public phone anywhere anymore.

You can see my paintings at:

Sunday 15 February 2015

Mountains & Mist

    Yesterday while we were starting out on our walk down the tarmac at the McBride airfield, we were engulfed in fog.  As we proceeded down the runway, slowly the fog lifted and the blue sky and mountains began to show through.  It was a magical transformation that was unfolding before us.  Here are some photos.

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Saturday 14 February 2015

Valentine's Day

    A Happy Valentine’s Day to Everyone!
    Way back on Valentine’s Day in 2001, my Valentine (Joan) made me this flan in celebration of the day.  There was some talk this morning of another flan today.  I have my fingers crossed.

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Friday 13 February 2015

"Pet Me"

    Here is our cat Lucifer in her “Give Me a Pet” pose.  She knows it is a really effective pose, and she takes it just about every time you approach her, but beware.  
    If you bend down to pet her, her reaction can go one of two ways.  She might allow you to run the tips of your fingers back and forth down her spine, causing her to purr and totally enjoy the attention, or just as likely she will grab your hand with her front paws, then holding it, she will turn onto her back and start raking your hand with her back legs.  This is not done in meanness she is just practicing being a tough cat, but if you try to pull you hand out of her clutches, there is a good chance that you might end up with some scratches.

You can view my photo-realistic paintings at:

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Angora Goats

    For about 20 years I had a herd of Angora Goats.  When we bought our hobby farm in McBride, we suddenly found ourselves with a barn, fences, and pastures, and I thought it would be nice to put them to use by getting some sort of animals.  Being pretty soft-hearted, and knowing how attached I always got to animals, I didn’t want to get any kind of farm animal that I would have to kill to benefit from, and after doing a bit of research I came up with a probable solution--Angora Goats.
    While they are goats, they a breed for their “wool”.  They give us mohair, a luxurious fine fiber used in knitting and other textiles.  Mohair is warmer than wool, and when dyed, gives brilliant colors.  It was used for the curly white beard that Santa sported.  I think I remember that Shirley Temple’s wig was also made of mohair.
    I started out by buying a pair of the critters from a breeder who lived down near Bridge Lake, BC.  I drove down there with a friend, paid the guy and hauled the goats back in the back of my Scout (an early version of an SUV).  Once installed into their new home, they soon adapted, and eventually bred.  Both Joan and I would spend hours going out standing by the fence just watching them, even though they didn’t do anything but walk around and eat grass.  Their behavior was very passive, more like sheep than goats, who have a reputation of being pretty wild (climbing into trees, and always escaping).
    As the years progressed, so did my herd of goats.  Eventually getting to the point where I had 23 of them.  The little paddock by the barn was too small for so so many animals, so after I got home from work, I would walk them down to the field where I would herd them as they walked around feasting on all the grass down there.  Even though goats have very effective digestive systems, having so many of them meant had to have a lot of hay every year to get them through the winter.
    I was running out of room in the barn for hay and goats.  I had a lot of individual stalls for the mother goats and I always enjoyed watching them when I opened the barn door and they all scrambled for their home stalls where a bowl of oats waited for them.  Because I was running out of room, I started to sell some of the goats, and my herd began to shrink as my other goats eventually started dying of old age.
    My geriatric herd eventually got down to one lonely old goat that died in 2011.

My paintings can be seen at:

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Monday 9 February 2015

Constant Camera

    Quite often I hear about how dependent people are on their cell phones.  If they don’t have them they feel uneasy and uncomfortable.  That is the way I feel about my camera.  I take it just about everywhere I go.   I always have the fear I will miss a good shot.
    Yesterday afternoon, it was just Skye and myself that were going out for a walk.  I decided to do Jervis Road again, because it wouldn’t have much snow, and no traffic.  It was an overcast day and I didn’t have much faith in getting any good photos, but I took my camera along anyway.  I am glad that I did, because the color of the fields, the lone pair of tracks down the long straight snow-covered road, and the dark mountains entranced me.  I ended up taking lots of pictures.    Here are a couple of my favorites.

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Sunday 8 February 2015

Slow and Steady

    Lately the weather has been mild, and the trail around the pond has firmed up, so late in the afternoon, our dog Skye, and I have been walking around the pond.  Lucifer our cat, has also wanted to make the trip, so the three of us set out together.  Skye sticks close to me, while Lucifer walks very slowly and falls behind.  
    The photo shows Lucifer coming down the home stretch.

My paintings can be seen at:

Saturday 7 February 2015

Coyote Tracks

    The other day while we were doing a walk, I noticed this big snow drift caused by the line of trees.  It has pretty much buried some of the fence posts.   Meandering across the drift were some coyote tracks.  It looks like the coyote deviated its course a bit so it could “mark” one of the fence posts.  Coyotes spend a lot of time criss-crossing fields looking for mice who spend most of the winter in nests under the snow.

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Friday 6 February 2015

Northern Flying Squirrel

    I didn’t know anything about flying squirrels.  The only flying squirrel that I knew about was Rocky the Flying Squirrel from the cartoon show of my youth, but one winter’s night I happened to be outside near by the peanut butter log which I used to feed the birds, and I noticed that it was swinging back and forth.  I found this curious since there was no wind and no apparent reason for the movement.  Then I saw the cause, there was a squirrel on it.  I didn’t think it was one of our regular squirrels because they don’t come out in the night.
    This squirrel was bigger in size at a large fluffy tail, and enormous eyes--it was a flying squirrel.  I didn’t know we had them around the Robson Valley, but there it was.  I rushed in to get my video camera, which I set to “Night Vision” and took these photos.  All that happened back in 1999.  
    I hadn’t really noticed any flying squirrels since then, probably because I don’t spend too much time walking around outside on winter nights.  A few nights ago I happened to look out the window and saw the peanut log swinging again.  The flying squirrel leaped to the birch tree and was gone before I could take any pictures, but I was happy to know that they are still around.

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Thursday 5 February 2015

Cozy House

    I took this photo the around 5:00 PM in the afternoon.  I find it really interesting how colors can set the mood.  All the blue in the surroundings create a cold atmosphere to the shot, while the orangish-yellows that are shining through the windows give off a feeling of warmth and security.  That’s how I like to think of our house, so I really like this photo.

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Wednesday 4 February 2015

Hoof Nippers on the Bed

    Every day Pete from Dunster sends out a community newsletter which tells readers, WHO is looking for WHAT.  “I need a ride to Prince George,” “We have an old washing machine that still works, does anyone want it?”  “Could someone pick up a parcel from Hinton for me?” etc.  The other day I read that Keith, who makes internationally known French horns, was looking for an old pair of horse hoof nippers.  He said he needs them to use as a tool in his manufacturing.  
    It set me wondering, “Don’t we have an old pair of hoof nippers in the barn?”
    Next morning when I went out to the barn to get sunflower seeds for the bird feeder, I looked around and found them.  I sent off an email to Keith telling I had a pair that he could have.  Since he lives in Dunster, he asked if I could drop them off at the McBride Library, where his wife could pick them up.  I replied that I would be at the library Tuesday night for our jam session and I would take the nippers to drop them off.  As sort of a joke I wrote “If I don’t forget them.”
    To make sure I didn’t forget them I put the nippers on top of  the canvas shoulder bag I always take to the jam.  There the nippers sat for a couple of days.  Then last night as I was preparing to go to the jam, I carried my iPad (I use it to tune my mandolin and to find lyrics and chords) to the bag and there right on top of the bag sat the nippers.  I picked them up and put them on the bed so I could put my iPad into the bag.  This done I zipped the bag up, grabbed my instruments, and headed out the door.
    When I got to the library, I opened my bag to get the nippers and take them to the librarian.  Of course, the nippers weren’t there because they were still sitting on the bed where I put them.

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Tuesday 3 February 2015

My First and Last Ski Race--Conclusion

         After a brief period of pleasant skiing, the snow on the trail started to become more and more icy. Then the ski trail suddenly took an abrupt turn to the left and plunged steeply straight down the hill, sharply veering to the left when it confronted a large cedar. This didn't look good, but, there was no way I was going to go back the way I came, so my only option was to go down this slope.
My brain, in an obvious attempt to save itself, sorted through all its past information and came up with a plausible solution to how I could get down the hill: Snowplow,  Of course! I had read in the "How to Cross Country Ski" booklet about how you could slow and control your speed going down hill by spreading your legs apart, putting the points of the skis together, riding on the inside edges of your skis, thus pushing snow in front of you instead of gliding over the top of it. I would just snowplow down this hill. Full of confidence, I pushed myself over the edge. 
  It took about a nanosecond for me to reach the speed at which I decided I'd better start to move my skis into the snowplow position. As I careened down the  slope, I watched in fascination as my legs parted and the tips of my skis slowly and carefully moved together, while skating over the ever accelerating ice  which was moving, ever faster, under them.
I raised up onto the inside edges of the skis, but because of the icy track, I was plowing no snow. I was moving more and more rapidly down the hard packed slope toward the grandfather of all cedar trees.
         It seemed an unjust world that offered such an ignoble end to one who was willing to sacrifice a Sunday for his community and the Adult Male Category.  I decided rather than take the cedar tree with me INTO THE VOID, I would veer off to the side of the trail and sacrifice only myself, but before I had a chance to determine my own fate, the back edge of my ski struck a downed branch,  anchored in the snow, and for the second time during the race I was  somersaulting down a hill.
         My speed was slowed by brush and deeper snow along the edge of the trail and I came to a twisted stop just to the right of the mighty cedar. I remained in my sprawled position for a moment, amazed at the physics of rolling down a hill at great speed with a 2 metre ski attached to each foot and a bamboo pole flailing wildly from each hand. It seemed a miracle that I was unhurt.
        Not wanting to push fate too far, I took off my skis and walked down the rest of the hill to the flats. I put the skis back on and shuffled down to where the trail leveled off and snaked through another stand of willows and alder. The trail made a left turn and I could see through the brush that I was about to enter the field again for the final leg before the finish line.
        Upon entering the Field, I my spirits were lifted when I realized the crowds of people had vanished. Good, I thought, I can just quietly ski across the field, and finish the race without drawing attention to myself. With a bit more confidence, I made the turn and started across the open field.
        "There he is", someone shouted. Then a small crowd of people I hadn't noticed all turned their eyes toward me. Some kid from the crowd began to ski toward me.
        "We were just getting ready to send a search party out to find you. What happened? Did you get lost?" he asked.
        "No," I replied, "I was just taking my time and enjoying the scenery.
        "The timekeeper and most everyone else has already gone home," the kid volunteered. 
"That's okay, I said, "I was just skiing for the fun of it.”
        The small group of people politely clapped for me as I passed over the finish line which ended my first and last ski race. 

You can see my paintings at:

Monday 2 February 2015

My First And Only Ski Race, Part 2

     This tale began on yesterday’s (Feb 1) blog.  Read that one first, if you haven’t already.
     It was a sparkling clear and sunny winter's day. I was dazzled by the strikingly brilliant rainbow of colored clothing worn by the skiers as they practiced their stride in the field out in front of the Ranch of the Viking Lodge. Then I was struck by a thought: these skiers are all wearing skin-tight Spandex racing clothes, and there are a lot more skiers here than Fern had led me to believe. A mild tremor, (3.0 on the Richter Scale) rumbled through my self confidence. 
       That was followed by a Richter Scale 4.3 after-shock, when I took notice of all the skiers in the parking lot with torches and little irons, applying different colors of wax to different sections of their skis. I found this quite interesting, since I had never seen ski wax before. I thought it curious that a person would spend so much effort putting wax on the bottom of a ski, when they could just buy a pair of  "no wax" skis, and just be able to "Snap them on and go.” 
        I found Fern, who once again said, "Good for you, Dave", and added that they would be starting racers "one at a time, with a 10 second interval in between each racer. She had already registered me in the Adult Male Category, and all I had to do was check in.
         An announcer called out that all racers should get into line according to their category. The Adult Males were to be started after the Teenage Males and they were to be followed by the Jack Rabbits, which was a club of little kids that were just learning to ski. I took my place in the line and was surprised to discover that there were at least 10 other Adult Males, all of which were wearing colorful aerodynamic body suits. My confidence continued to implode.
        The moment of truth was rapidly approaching as the Adult Males slowly  neared Al, the local pharmacist, whose job it was to start each racer. I thought that maybe I should come up with some kind of race strategy, and this is the strategy that I came up with: I would ski as fast as I could around the field in front of the Ranch of the Vikings Lodge, and then once the trail entered the bush, out of sight of the spectators, I could slow down to my normal ski pace and enjoy the race.
        Before I had a chance to critique my strategy, Al yelled, "GO!", brought down his hand, and I shuffled off down the track, as fast as I could, along the edge of the field. I hadn't gone more than 75 metres when I heard a voice behind me yell, "Track", I wondered what he meant, then he shouted louder, "TRACK". I got the distinct feeling that he was upset with my speed and wanted to go around me, he didn't seem to want to get out of the set track himself to go around me, so I stepped off the track to let him by.
        "Get off the track when some yells,'Track'," he told me as he whisked by me. I am a quick learner, and by the time the remaining Adult Males had passed me, I was reacting to the "Track" signal, like a veteran skier. I was beginning, however, to suspect a flaw in my race strategy. I was only halfway across the field, and my body was already sending me signals of an eminent collapse.
         My heart was pounding, my legs were screaming, and my throat was felt raw from the rapid breathing. I couldn't maintain this sprint-like pace too much longer. It was better that I gear down a bit and endure some ridicule than to expire in the middle of the field, so I slowed my shuffle, and after what seemed like a week and a half, I finally made it to the cover of the willows and alder. 
       I immediately reduced my speed again and continued along the twists and turns of the trail through the brush. At least now, I could nurse my ego back to health and enjoy the race. Then, once again from behind me, came the "track" command, this time in a higher octave. I instinctively stepped aside, and let the diminutive gang of Jackrabbits ski by. I took solace in the thought that at least there was no Infant Category in the race.
        Surely now, my troubles were over. I rounded a corner and discovered to my dismay, that the trail headed straight up the base of Bell Mountain. This was the steepest incline I had ever  encountered in my short skiing career, but I didn't panic.    Everyone else, even the Jackrabbits, had evidently made it up the slope, so I tried to think good thoughts, and I began the climb.
           It was extremely difficult to achieve any gain in elevation without loosing it in a back slide. The slope seemed to be too much for the little grooves on the bottom of my "No Wax" skis to cope with, which gave up their grip each time I advanced a ski forward. I knew how to herringbone up a slope, but there was no evidence that anyone else had used the technique to climb the hill, so dammit, neither was I.
         Instead, I developed my own climbing technique, I call it the " pull and prop" method. Here's how it works: you advance one ski forward, then using that side’s pole as a prop, you pull that side of your body forward until your weight is over that ski, while at the same time your other arm uses every remaining ounce of strength to brace against a back- slide with the other pole. 
          I successfully pulled and propped my way halfway up the slope, then I was forced by exhaustion to stop to allow my arms and shoulders to recover. Unfortunately, it only took a second of relaxation of my prop arm, for the pull of gravity to send me skiing backwards down the slope, until one of the back ends of my skis dug into the snow, causing me to somersault backwards, which continued until I finally came to rest in a tangled pile at the bottom of the hill.
        I had to take off my skis to get back into the standing position again.  I brushed the snow from my clothes with my toque, snapped the skis back on, and herring-boned up the hill. I was beginning to seriously question the sales pitch I had been given about "No Wax" skis.
         The trail leveled out at the top of the hill and the vegetation changed from  brush to a dark cedar and spruce forest. I plodded along and for the first time during the race I was enjoying the scenery. Several times the trail forked, there was no signs or persons to give me direction, so I just chose what appeared to be the most travelled fork and proceeded through the forest. It seemed I was alone in the universe, but I was happy to have the solitude and quiet.

       My ski race will conclude on tomorrow’s blog.

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Sunday 1 February 2015

My First And Only Ski Race

       In 1978 on the morning of the ski race, I awoke without a trace of nervousness or  worry. It was Sunday, no reason for panic. I lingered under the warm blankets enjoying the sleepy peacefulness of the morning. I don't know if professional athletes spend much time lying in bed worrying about their upcoming games,  but my lack of concern for the ski race didn't stem from self confidence, it stemmed from the fact that I did not even suspect that I was going to be in a cross country ski race.
         The February sun was just beginning to streak through the tops of the cottonwood trees which grow on the lower slopes of the mountain. The house was cold.  I got up, it didn't look like my wife was going to, so it was up to me to opened the vent at the front of the wood stove, stir up the slumbering ashes, and then carefully place a log into the firebox. I was just closing the cast iron door of the stove when the phone rang. It was Fern.
         "I hope I didn't wake you up," she said.
        "No," I tried to make my voice sound like I had been up for a couple of hours. Since we had just bought the small farm in this rural community, I thought it would sound better if I came across like an early riser. "I was just putting more wood on the fire," I replied.
        "Today is the Yellowhead Loppet," Fern began.
        "Yes, I know.   Joan and I were planning to come and watch." I said.
        "I was calling to see if I could get you to be in the race," Fern continued, "You do cross country ski don't you?
        "Well, I'm really not very good."       
         This was not false modesty. I wasn't a very good skier. We had bought a cross country ski "package" the previous year in an attempt to make the long Canadian winters a bit more enjoyable by getting some physical exercise out in the crisp mountain air. The equipment package included a pair of "no wax" skis, (“Just snap them on and go”), bamboo ski poles, and a pair of high cut boots with padding around the ankles.
       In our old community, we would spend Sunday afternoons on the skis, shuffling and pushing our way along one of the many abandoned logging roads paralleling the North Thompson River. It was scenic and enjoyable, speed never entered into the equation. Even on the small rises and dips in the road which gave brief periods of acceleration and a little wind in the face, it did not provide anything that could be considered the kind of experience that I could cling to in a cross-country ski race.
        "l'm sure you would do fine," Fern added.
        I was flattered. No doubt Fern had recognized the innate coordination and speed I had demonstrated on Wednesday nights in the high school gymnasium at the square dancing club Joan and I had joined in an attempt to meet people and establish ourselves in this small isolated community. Fern obviously had been impressed by my prowess as I "dos-a'-dosed" my partner, weaving, spinning, turning, then running head-on into the oncoming lady.
          I tried to decline again, but Fern was determined she was going to get me into the race and so she began to deploy her heavy artillery.
          "I sure wish you could help us out, Dave. We really need some participants in the Adult Male Category. You really don't have to race, just ski for the fun of it. Do it for the community.
         Bang, she got me. We wanted desperately to become part of the community. We had just bought the house and moved to this area five months earlier. I wanted to establish roots here. I didn't want to be in a ski race, but I heard my voice tell Fern over the phone, "Okay, I'II be in the race. How long is it?'
         "The Adult Male race is just seven kilometers?"
         "Oh," I replied, without really knowing what seven kilometers related to in understandable terms. It couldn't be too far, I thought.  I remembered reading in the little glossy “How to Cross Country Ski” booklet we had purchased along with our skis, that in Norway, seventy year old men win 50 kilometer races all the time. Surely, a thirty year old could ski seven kilometers without too much effort.
         Before my brain had any time to reconsider what my voice had just committed my body to, Fern said, "Good for you, Dave. The race starts at 10:00,  See you there." and then hung up. 
        "Joan, wake up, I guess I'm going to be in the ski race.”
         My mind was already racing; I pictured myself skiing along with members of the community lined up along the track, all nodding in appreciation at what a good sport I was to enter the race so that there would be at least one local participant in the Adult Male Category. Who knows, I might even do well in the race. I still had an athletic body, despite my indifference to sports. As far as I knew, I still held the decathlon record at North High School back in Indiana. Maybe this was going to turn out all right!
        In the two hours that remained before the start of the race, I ate a bowl of cereal, went out to the wood shed to gather up the skis and poles which I leaned against the side of the house, and brought the boots inside to warm up.
I gathered up my ski clothes: my thick red wool knee socks, my heavy beige woolen ski knickers, a red woolen turtle-neck sweater, and the burgundy nylon windbreaker splattered with the odd drop of brown paint. All dressed up in my skiing clothes, I put the skis into the car, and off we drove to the Ranch of the Vikings where the race was being held.

         The story continues on tomorrow’s blog.

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