Monday, 25 July 2016

MAJOR MILESTONE

This post is going to be very short and sweet. My blogspot has recently crossed the 10,000 readership mark and is continuing to climb. It seems like only yesterday that I wrote my first post but that was over four years ago. Writing has been one of my passions and the only thing I enjoy as much as writing is sharing my stories with others; more specifically, You, my readers.

Thank you for stopping in to sample my stories and leave the occasional comment. Please feel free to drop in anytime. I have more stories in the works but I also have to admit that I've been very busy preparing to reintroduce my first novel: Lottery, plus a smaller story (I think they call it a novella) entitled: Family Reunion. I'll introduce you to both of them when the time comes. In the meantime, browse the stories and feel free to comment.

Thanks again. G.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

WEIGH IN

One of the trucking communities worst fears is that of reporting to the scales. Some will insist that it slows their progress down which might be somewhat legitimate but there's always the fear of being caught overweight and either being given a heavy (no pun intended) fine or being taken right off the road. But the scales are a fact of life and being properly loaded makes the road safer for everyone. But there are those in the trucking community who might argue that point.

Coutts, Alberta, and Sweetgrass, Montana, are two communities that comprise a major port of entry for Canada and the United States. Interstate 15 comes up all the way from the southern part of California and Highway 4 joins it on the north side of the border. For many years after the war, the corridor from Lethbridge to Coutts was free of so-called chicken coops. Of course, if you were headed south and weren't planning to get rid of some cargo in Sweetgrass, Sunburst, or Four Corners, you were likely to get waylaid just on the north side of Shelby. However, you could exit I-15 at Four Corners, itself, head west through Kevin and onto Cutbank then swing back and rejoin the I-15 at Shelby. But the Canadian side was rather devoid of scales, with the exception of one that would stop you just south of Calgary on Highway Two. As time went by someone decided to set up a scales just north of Coutts.

Now, even back in the 60's the highway was divided about three miles due north of Coutts, and continued that way all the way through to the border crossing. They must have planned to put in a scale between the two stretches of blacktop because when the installation went forward that scale was planted right in the dead center of everything; they couldn't have planned it better. Access from the north or southbound traffic was easy, with a long stretch of asphalt for each direction. Note that I said easy access. If you weren't paying attention, you could find yourself taking the family car in to get weighed; more than one motorist caught himself on that stretch of pavement and could only imagine the laughing and finger pointing from those who saw him make that wrong turn.

Back in the 60s the scales facility amounted to little more than the scales itself. The platform was outside and a tiny wooden structure housed the beam and kept the operator out of the elements. The scale house also provided a counter where a trucker could fill out the necessary forms needed to obtain a permit (in addition to getting written up on an overweight citation). From the outside the structure resembled either a tiny cottage or a unit from numerous motels that dotted the outskirts of almost any town.

Walt was a fun-loving individual. He enjoyed life to its fullest, especially when it included copious quantities of spirits. He loved his booze. Some of the temperance types might have hinted that Walt was an alcoholic but those who knew him well, knew that he was just a partier and loved to get feeling good. The downside of it was that he got behind the wheel and attempted to drive home when the party was over. If there could ever be an upside to driving while under the influence you could say that Walt drove very slowly--almost creeping--toward home.

Well, Walt had been to Milk River and on the way home, stopped at Art's place; or maybe Art's brother, Al's. For all we know it could have been both of them because they both consumed whiskey by the case. Anyways Walt stopped in to say hi and one of the brothers responded by offering Walt a drink--or five. The hours passed, the whiskey flowed, and the stories abounded, but like so many parties, this one had to end. So Walt bade the brother/brothers good-night and ambled out to his old reliable '56 Ford sedan and proceeded to drive home.

It was late winter or early spring, the skies had grown overcast and it had started to snow. At times the snow was falling heavily enough that the snowflakes, reflecting the light from the twin headlight beams of the car, tended to restrict Walt's visibility. His condition didn't help but undaunted, and also knowing the way home, he made steady progress down the highway. He crossed the railroad tracks and took note of the sign indicating a curve ahead where the highway would change its course to an easterly direction for two miles before curving south into the customs. Walt's farm was east of Coutts on the 500 road. Another mile and he would turn left. He watched for the next sign.

A Customs officer had just completed his evening shift and was busy brushing the snow off his car when he heard the crash. He quickly went back inside and told the duty officer to phone the police then he headed back out and drove up the highway. He was headed west slowly, looking for any telltale signs of a crash but found nothing. That was kind of strange because he heard something, and he was positive it came from the highway. However, finding nothing, he finally decided to call off the search and let the police continue. Following the sign warning truckers to STOP AND REPORT TO SCALES, he turned off the highway with the intention of turning back in the direction of Coutts. As he approached the tiny scale house from the east he began to notice that something was wrong.

The wall next to the scale platform itself didn't seem quite straight. In fact it appeared that the entire building wasn't straight. He drove closer and noticed a red glow in the swirling snow. He reached the house and stopped abruptly.

Barely protruding from the west side of the scale house were the taillights of a car. The car itself was almost completely inside the house; the only thing that caused the car to come to a complete halt and not bury itself was when its front bumper hit the steel scale post. That was lucky because the beam was less than an inch from the miraculously undamaged windshield and was pointed directly at the driver. The officer could see some movement from inside the car. He managed to gain access to the passenger's side and get the door open.

There was Walt, about twenty-three sheets to the wind still sitting behind the wheel. He seemed almost oblivious to what had just happened. "Where in the hell did that house come from?" he slurred, "I was driving home, minding my own business and all of a sudden, this house appears, in the snow. I thought there's no house in the middle of the road and must've been seeing things so I kept on going..."

Little did he know...

Over the next few weeks, the scale house was replaced with a more substantial unit, eventually to be replaced with a fully modern terminal and warehouse facility. Walt's car was repaired and he would drive it--more sober from now on--for many more years before his eyesight would fade and eventually terminate his driving for good. But Walt would stay on and continue enjoying a drink until he was finally called home sometime in his 90s. I just hope that St. Peter opened those gates wide so Walt wouldn't run into them...  

Sunday, 24 April 2016

FIRE FIGHTER

One of the problems with living out in the country is the hazard of being away from emergency services. We hear all the time about a fire starting in someone's home and by the time the fire department arrives, about all that's left to do is try to keep the fire from spreading and to push the charred remains into the now opened cellar and fill the hole in. Begin again in a slightly different location. There was a couple of occasions on the old ranch where we had some devastating fires.
Back in '59 the barn burned down with much the same results as the aforementioned situations. Some time after the place was sold, fire broke out in the old shop and leveled the place. At that time the fire department didn't need to control the spreading as it was raining a deluge out there. The worst was the early fall of 2012 when a fire that started in a combine about nine miles to the west of the old ranch. There was a high wind blowing at the time and the fire headed east right into what was left of the ranch.

The barn that replaced the one lost in '59 was lost again. The corrals and the outbuildings also succumbed to the fire storm; the only buildings that were saved were the main house and garage, and a house that Dad built in around '67 for a hired man and his wife. Oh, and the massive trees that surround the main house survived with only a temporary loss of color. But there was a time many years before the first barn fire that could've ended up as a disaster.

Winters in the Chinook Belt are by nature easy to take. No real deep-freezes unless you consider that 104 day cold snap in the winter of '69 when the temperature never rose above zero (Fahrenheit) until almost spring. True we can get those Siberian Expresses that float way up above the polar ice cap and drop down on us causing the temperatures to plummet below zero for upwards of three weeks. It's kind of nasty, especially when you have to venture out every day to look after and feed cattle.

The ranch was reasonably mechanized. That is to say that we had means, other than horse and wagon, to feed the cattle. We had trucks that could be coaxed into life fairly easily--unless the block heaters weren't working or someone forgot to plug them in--and when the snow got too deep, Dad would simply fire up the wheeled tractor or crawler and hitch it to the hay sled to deliver feed.

One bright sunny day, in the very early fifties, a day that turned out to be far from mild, Dad ventured out from the warm confines of the old ranch house to look after his means of providing said old ranch house with the means to continue giving the warm confines. Simply put, he headed out to feed the cattle. It was cold out, the fourth or fifth day where the mercury just simply hid, shivering in that bulb on the bottom of the thermometer; it was so cold that the brass monkeys were considering careers in hairdressing. It was almost as cold as JC's ex-wife's side of the bed.

There was a lot of snow on the ground, and where the cattle were holed up, passage by truck was hazardous in that there was a good chance that there would be more time spent shoveling the truck out of a snowbank than feeding the cows. A standard tractor was nearly as risky but that's where the crawler came in. Fire up the D-2 Cat, hitch it up to the sleigh and head out. It was next to impossible to get the Cat stuck.

The Cat was in the metal clad machine shed. Dad went out to the shed, slid the doors open and prepared to start the crawler. Now I don't know if it's just me, or Dad, or all of us who venture outside to go into an unheated building in the dead of winter, but it seems that the interior of a typical machine shed is at least twice as cold as it was outside. Dad took one look at the D2 shivering just inside the door and realized that his chances of starting that thing in 30 below weather were slim to none unless some outside source of heat was brought in to help warm the engine up. Dad didn't waste his time, he just headed over to the blacksmith shop and came back with the tiger torch and a bottle of propane. He carefully positioned a piece of thick-walled pipe under the Cat between the tracks then set the torch so that the flame would direct its heat more rearward than up. In that way the heat would thaw out the entire machine so that, should you luck out and get the engine running, you could still turn the transmission over, and thus get the crawler to move so that you could actually get some work done.

Everything went just fine. Dad lit the torch and made sure that it was secured so that it would direct the heat as planned. Confident that everything would be OK, Dad left the shed and went over to the barn to check on a couple of cows that were going to calve early. It turned out to be a good idea because one of the cows was down and the calf had a leg back. Dad, being a vet, quickly tied up the cow then worked away at the calf's front leg, eventually getting it pointing in the proper direction. The actual birth took place soon after that; so Dad, confident that everything was OK in the barn, donned his heavy coat again and headed back to the shed.

It was a good thing he came back when he did because he saw that one side of the Cat's engine was ablaze. It turned out that the hose to the torch had a twist in it which pulled itself around pulling the torch in a different direction. Where it was perched on that piece of pipe allowed the torch to point up at the left side of the engine, which thawed out rapidly, then the heavy accumulation of grease reached its combustion temperature and presto, Dad had a hot Cat.

Well, he first shut of the valve at the propane tank then ran back to the shop and came out with one of those old brass-bodied Pyrene extinguishers, the type which had a T-handled plunger at one end and a nozzle at the other. To operate the extinguisher, you twisted the handle to unlatch it then pull it out of the body and shove it back in. Of course it would also be prudent to have the spray nozzle directed at the fire. He unlatched that handle then pulled the plunger out. Aiming the spray nozzle at the flames he gave a mighty shove and pushed that plunger in.

Now when there's a rush of air or gas into a semi-closed area, there's a rush of displaced air or gas that rushes right back out. In the case of the extinguisher, there was a lot more chemical sprayed than there was capacity for air. Flames rushed out; hot air rushed out; extinguisher fumes rushed out, and if it could, I think the unburned grease and scorched paint would've rushed out as well. All Dad could remember was this wall of hot gas and flame that rushed right out into his face just as he was breathing in. It sapped his wind and sent a burning sensation right down his throat. He felt that he was breathing his last and it was about that exact moment that Dad thought: 'to hell with the crawler, let the damn thing burn!'

He lost track of time for a minute or so but when Dad woke up, he was laying flat on his back on the floor of the shed, the extinguisher on the floor just inches from his grasp. He lifted his head to see the Cat, a little pall of smoke still rising from somewhere underneath. The fire was out and a quick check revealed only superficial damage. Dad fired up the small 'Pony engine,' which was used to fire up the main diesel engine and Dad was able to feed the cows that day.

There's more than one moral to the story: When using a tiger torch to warm up a frozen piece of equipment, don't leave it unattended. And when using a pyrene extinguisher because of not properly adhering to the first piece of advice, take a deep breath and hold it before discharging it. Failure to do so can do more than just extinguish the fire...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

OF AIRPLANES AND CATTAILS


To many who volunteered for service during the war, what they got wasn't exactly what they thought they were getting into. So many entered, expecting to be deployed overseas but instead got assigned to posts in this country, and sometimes even close to home. But most could at least be happy they were put to work here, even if it didn't seem as glamorous. And it was absolutely necessary to have personnel on this side of the pond to help train those who were headed across. Still it could get somewhat monotonous; military work could get that way. Just the same there were times when things could get interesting and the boredom didn't seem to be so bad.

Don enlisted in the air force as soon as he was old enough to volunteer. After training he was assigned to several different air fields in Alberta and Saskatchewan where training of new pilots and crews went on at a feverish pace, but the station that had him the longest was Calgary. And that seemed strange to Don because his home was Lethbridge, just a hop skip and a jump to the south.

To go off in a bit if a tangent here, Don could get the occasional weekend furlough home if a crew happened to be flying down to Kenyon Field at that time. The only requirement was to check out a parachute just in case everyone had to bail out.

It was interesting in that Don had to take the bus back to Calgary and he looked a little silly carrying a parachute onto the bus for the return trip. A few drivers even mentioned that.

Aircraft maintenance was the task Don was given. Being more or less the junior of the squad, he found himself doing nearly every aspect of maintenance that could be imagined. And most of them were jobs that either the more senior of the enlisted men didn't want or physically couldn't fit in the often cramped spaces. Don cleaned the Plexiglas canopies, wiped the grease off the fuselage, checked the air in the tires, and more often than not, was the one assigned to clean the vomit from inside the cockpit, after a new pilot trainee lost the stalls and spins contest.

Every morning at precisely five AM, rain or shine, or snow, or ice, the base was awakened by the lone trumpeter. This guy must have loved his job because he seemed to play continuously, well beyond the usual time it took to wake everyone up. Everyone on the base (even the roosters at the neighboring farms) developed an extreme dislike for this untalented musician and everyone tried to come up with a way to sabotage his morning regimen. Ideas like whizzing in his bugle, or filling it with something more solid were passed around but the man kept such close tabs on that horn that access was impossible; they were sure he showered with it.

A new instructor was assigned to the base. This guy was the real thing; he was a combat veteran who had been up close and personal with the enemy, close enough to see the whites of their eyes. He had spent countless hours in the air defending England from the invading Luftwaffe, and then several posts in France and in North Africa. Finally, after receiving his second or third Ace medal, the Brass decided that he'd had enough combat experience and it was time to pass that knowledge and experience onto others. Thus he got shipped home, and on to Calgary.

It turned out that this Flying Officer's quarters was uncomfortably close to the place where the trumpeter began every day. Consequently the officer wasn't receptive to that damned horn screeching at five in the morning. He complained lots but it didn't get him very far.

Now, the trumpeter had an interest in flying; at least he wanted to know what it was like, to be up in the sky, floating high above the clouds, free as a bird... Well, at least he indicated that to his friends, like another trumpeter, because he likely didn't have any friends. One day, after he had finished annoying the entire base, he was strolling around and happened to see Don, intently checking out a single engine trainer.

'Say, Fisher, do you think you could get me a ride on one of those?'

Don thought about it for a minute. He gave a shrug. 'Sure. Might cost you three cartons of cigarettes.' During the war, cigarettes were often hard to come by. Since the majority of soldiers smoked, cigarettes became better currency than actual money.

'Three cartons? Too much. How about one?'

'Never fly.' If the truth be known, a couple packs of cigarettes would have probably sufficed, but this was a business deal, with an enemy, or at least someone who was about as welcome on the base as a turd in a swimming pool. 'Make it two cartons and I'll see what I can do.'

The deal was made and Don headed into the pilots' corner. The veteran flying officer smiled like the cat that was about to eat the canary. For a carton of cigarettes, he'd give that trumpeter an airplane ride he'd never forget.

Notice that the pilot only got one carton of cigarettes? Well, Don was a businessman. Besides, there was a little pain and suffering on Don's behalf that had to be taken into consideration.

Well, the trumpeter checked out a parachute and met the flying officer at the plane that Don had just finished checking off. They boarded and got belted in then Don engaged the starter which brought the big radial engine to life. With the roar of the engine and the blast of sand in the wake of the propeller they were on their way.

The flight lasted less than an hour, more or less the orientation time of a new student pilot. The Harvard landed and taxied back to the maintenance hangar. The pilot shut the engine down and Don couldn't believe his eyes.

There were cattail shards stuck to the rudder; more shards around the pitot tube (the tiny tube that protrudes out from under a wing or along the forward part of the fuselage) and a couple of pieces of stalk on one wing. But Don couldn't believe the shards that were wedged in between the cylinders of the engine and wrapped around the roots of the propeller. How the pilot managed to get large chunks of cattails jammed in around the engine and prop without severely damaging the propeller or crashing the airplane would be a mystery that would never be solved.

The canopy was slid back, probably as soon as the plane touched down. Once parked, the flying officer didn't waste any time exiting the craft. The passenger was another story, as he required help to climb out. Once on the ground he dropped down to his hands and knees and hurled his insides out again. He eventually managed to get to his feet and stagger off to his quarters where he stayed for the remainder of the day.

'Fisher,' the pilot barked out, 'there's an engine vibration around 1700 revs and a little problem with the trim on the rudder. And, uh, wash the puke out of the cockpit!'

Remember the aforementioned pain and suffering?

The next morning at 5:00 sharp, the trumpeter blew his usual wake-up call. For some reason he didn't seem to get the message but at least he didn't ask for another airplane ride.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

COINCIDENZA


Coincidences happen all the time. For the most part we just smile and say: 'Wasn't that a coincidence?' Two events occur at precisely the same time and we're dumfounded. Of course there's the story about three clergymen, a Catholic priest, a Baptist minister and a Rabbi, who lived on the same street and all bought new cars--at exactly the same time--and got exactly the same make, model and color, all unbeknown to each other. The story goes on about how they individualized them, by the Baptist minister pouring a bucket of water over his car, thus baptizing it; the Catholic Christening his with a vial of Holy Water; and the Rabbi taking a hacksaw and cutting an inch off the end of the tailpipe. Yes, that's getting a little off the storyline but it's still funny.

How about when five of them occur? It might inspire one to go right out there and buy a pile of lottery tickets. This is a true story. Only a couple of names have been changed since the author cannot remember the proper ones.

It was in the late spring, a time when the days were fairly long and the sun was up long before most human members of the animal kingdom were even stirring. Well, 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning anyway. Urban was enjoying a few extra minutes of early morning slumber before having to rise, get dressed and ready to attend church and spend the rest of the day relaxing before enduring another week of punching the time clock. His moments of relaxation were suddenly cut short by the ringing of the telephone.

Urban picked it up, more to keep it from waking his entire household than to actually answer it. Suppressing an oath, he plastered on the best smile he could muster at that audacious time of day and greeted the caller.

"Hello?"

"Good morning, Urban," the caller greeted, "this is Father Patrice. I was wondering if Leona could play the organ in church today?"

Urban put off giving Father Patrice a large piece of his mind. After all Father Patrice was not only one of the best Parish priests they had ever had, he was a good friend. And it was Sunday; no doubt the Father was extremely busy and had a lot of work to do before services began.

"Well, Father, she isn't up yet, but I could ask her. She likes to play but she has a long way to go before she could really be up to your standard."

"I thought she was very good," the priest responded, "when she played at that concert in Augusta last Christmas, I was left speechless--"

Urban was puzzled. Augusta? What the heck was Father Patrice talking about? Leona had never played a concert in her life. She had only taken up the organ after their oldest boy had left for college less than a year ago. "Excuse me, Father, but I must be missing something. Augusta? The only Augusta I've heard about is Augusta, Georgia."

A brief pause. "Of course Augusta, Georgia. I was there before transferring to Atlanta."

"Atlanta? Georgia? Father this is going to really sound silly but this is Lethbridge, Alberta, in Canada.

"That's impossible. I just dialled your number from the parish member's list."

"Father Patrice, unless there has been some kind of time warp this morning, I've never set foot in any part of Georgia since the war."

There was a stony silence on both ends of the line while both men collected their thoughts. Father Patrice finally starting speaking again. "What's your area code?"

"It's '403,'" Urban responded.

Father Patrice let out an embarrassed laugh. "My area code is 770 but the code by your name is '404.' I can't believe it; I dial a three instead of a four, and get a parrishner named Urban, who has a wife named Leona, only they're two time zones away. Well tell me, since I'm paying for this phone call, what's the weather like up there?"

So that's got to be Coincidence Extraordinaire. But it actually happened, over forty years ago. I heard that Urban and Leona actually planned a trip to Atlanta to meet the other Father Patrice, and the other Urban and Leona, who had the same telephone number, save for a one-digit difference in the area code. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

NO POWER


 
 
Let me begin today's entry with a little bit of educational material from the halls of mechanical training.

A diesel engine burns diesel fuel, which is injected into the combustion chambers under extremely high pressure by the fuel injection system. The injection system is a composed of very precise components that require a steady flow of fuel and that supply of fuel absolutely must be completely free of dirt and other contaminants or the system will fail and the engine will fail to run. To keep the system free of said dirt and contaminants requires a system of filters that can sift out particles as small as three microns, which I am told is smaller than a grain of talcum powder. Of course I've never had occasion to measure a grain of talcum powder so there's always a chance that someone is pulling someone else's leg.

And if that's the case then I was pulling a lot of legs when I taught upgrading courses on fuel systems at the local college...

A tractor operating in a field, is always surrounded by dust, which can enter the fuel tank where it is carried by the fuel supply pump to the precision injection system. Fortunately the designers put the aforementioned filters in between the supply pump and said precision system to prevent damage, and so on and so forth, ad nauseum...

Farmers store fuel in large tanks, anything from five-hundred gallon tanks to vessels with capacities for thousands of gallons. Now this is all well and good but with the heating and cooling of the ambient air, and things like condensation, problems can result within the storage vessel itself. Rust and scale can form on the inside of the tank and this is also a source of contaminant, not only containing water, which is a major enemy of the injection system, but rust particles, which in themselves are abrasive. Now most of the time, the contamination level is well below the level at which fuel is drawn so it remains relatively stable. Unfortunately, when the bulk tank is replenished, it stirs up all the contaminant which can cause some troubles but after a spell of even a few hours, will settle out and the farmer can go back to business as usual. Some farmers will drain and flush out their tanks once or twice a year and, for an additional precaution, they will wait for a few hours after the bulk fuel agent has replenished their tanks before they fuel up their tractors. An added precaution is to also have a filter installed on the bulk tank.

But there are those who might think about it but never seem to get around to it.

JC's place of work was ten miles away from his home town. While he had few problems arriving earlier than usual or staying later than required, once he did get away and manage to close things up for the day, he hoped that maybe business was done and he could indulge in something else for the evening. However, there were occasions when he had to go back out in the field after supper. When spring planting was in full force, or when harvest was in full swing, he never really had much of a social life.

One spring evening, JC showed up at the coffee shop. He was greeted by those usual Coffee Row members already seated and took a seat at the table. Supper was served and the stories flowed. Then the phone rang. 'For you, JC,' Val called out from the kitchen. JC took the phone and began to listen.

'JC, it's Louis. All of my tractors are down; they won't hardly pull themselves. Can you come out?'

'Come out? As in tonight?' That was in reality a dumb question to ask. If Louis wanted JC to come out, it was tonight, or better yet, yesterday, before the problem occurred.

Well, JC had a pretty good idea what was happening, mostly because this wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't likely be the last either. Ol' Slippery, the bulk fuel agent had obviously been out delivering fuel. Louis would've had the fuel tanks of all three of his field tractors down to the stink of a grease rag and consequently would be all lined up waiting for a fresh supply of fuel. Louis and the boys would fill the tanks of the tractors and head back to the field where within an hour or two the filters would start clogging up with debris and by suppertime would hardly pull themselves.

Now, one thing I forgot to mention: When a fuel filter is new, it's at its worst stage; fuel passes easily through the element. However, as debris gets caught up on the element's surface, it begins to accumulate and jam together, each particle packing in tighter and tighter, thus adding to the filter element's capacity to sift out the particles. It finally becomes such a good filter that nothing will pass through, and that's when Louis' boys would realize that something is wrong.

Well, if it was plugged fuel filters (and JC was certain that was the case), then JC would have to drive the ten miles back to the shop and get new ones anyway so he simply headed up there in the first place. He knew the equipment that Louis ran so that was a no-brainer. But it was still annoying to drive up to the shop. JC seldom complained though. There usually was a good visit that went on during the service call, and often finished with a cup of coffee and a nice piece of pie at the house before he would be allowed to head for home.

Louis' place was ten miles the opposite way from town. By the time JC showed up, it was growing dusk. Being skilled at changing filters, JC still had the job(s) done and the tractors running before it was totally dark. He was even able to stop back at the coffee shop for a final cup before calling it a day.

The next day as JC wrote up the umpteenth work order for the previous trip to Louis' place, he pondered the perpetual situation; how could he fix this and not waste so much time? It didn't take long to formulate a plan. JC reached for the phone and began to dial.

'Hey, Darrel' (JC actually called him by his proper name because referring to someone his Dad's age as Slippery sounded a bit derogatory, even if it might have applied to Darrel's business tactics), 'it's JC. How goes the battle?'

'Just fine,' Slippery responded, 'how about you?'

'Can't complain--' That was a lie; no one would listen anyways. 'Say, Darrel, I need you to do me a favor.'

'Anything.' Slippery was always accommodating.

'Next time you deliver fuel out to Louis' place, would you mind giving me a call and letting me know?'

'May I ask why?'

JC told Slippery about the numerous trips to fix the same problems and added that if he knew when Slippery was delivering fuel, he'd simply take a supply of filters home with him, thus saving the trip back up to the shop.

They both had a good laugh, and Slippery said he'd let JC know.

Three weeks later, JC received a phone call from Slippery. 'I'm delivering fuel to Louis' place.'

'Thanks for the heads-up. I'll be ready.' It was a good warning because after supper, just as JC was having a second cup, the coffee shop phone rang, and the entire scenario would be repeated...

This went on for years. Every time Slippery delivered fuel to Louis' place, he called JC to let him know, and JC would come home prepared. JC actually started keeping a stock of filters at the house, just in case Louis phoned him on a weekend...

Saturday, 29 August 2015

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

My grandfather was an avid rancher. He may have dabbled in politics, serving on the State Legislature and then for ten years, after he moved to Canada, as MLA for Alberta, but his passion was cattle and horses, and he was very successful. He began down in Southeastern Utah, in the somewhat green valleys of Teasdale. For years his herd would graze the lush meadows then in the fall, Grandpa would drive the herd over the southern mountains to the desert where they spent the winter. With the coming of spring, Grandpa would drive them back to Teasdale and the cycle would start all over again. That is until the spring of 1910 when Grandpa heard of wonderful ranching opportunities to be had north of the International Boundary into Canada.

Grandpa loaded up Grandma, two kids and one baby and headed north to the promised land. Well, sort of promised land. When Grandpa checked things out a couple of years before, a Chinook had blown into the region and it was warmer in southern Alberta than it was in Salt Lake when he boarded the train.

Ranching turned out to be somewhat different than it was in the Four Corners region. Rain could fall all year long and so could the snow, even in July. One could see an eighty degree temperature change in just one day; it could be thirty below in the morning and a Chinook could blow in raising the temperature to fifty above in a very short time. Of course the opposite could also happen too. But one of the most significant changes in ranching between southern Utah and southern Alberta was the need to put up feed for the winter months.

Back in the states, Grandpa had plenty of grass for the cattle during the spring and summer months. The desert actually offered some good forage for the winter but I have to admit that I'm at somewhat of a loss as to where it actually was. Hay production went on but not at the level that Grandpa was soon to find out. Simply put, in Alberta, one could count on spending the summers mowing, raking and stacking hay for the winter. It just went with the territory.

Grandpa was a progressive rancher too. He could see the importance of plowing up the native prairie grass and seeding it to tame grass which yielded a lot more for summer grazing and hay production. Trouble was, there was still some medicinal value to native prairie grass so making hay out of that was important as well.

Now Grandpa found a lot of meadows that yielded some good grass and he (and the older boys) spent a lot of time gathering in the crops but things simply got too busy. The alternative was to possibly buy some native hay from the locals which would benefit everyone.

Grandpa's first operation bordered the Indian Reservation to the east. He actually rented land from the Reserve and used it for feed crops and pasture. But, as mentioned before, the time factor, which turned out not to be that big of a problem after all.

There was a lot of native prairie grass on the reservation and some of the Indians were willing to put it up to sell off to the local ranchers. Grandpa, always eager to get along with them, was willing to do business.

It would start when a couple of guys would ride up to the ranch to tell Grandpa that they were putting up hay and they would deliver it for so much per ton. That was fine with Grandpa. The boys would head back and the next day, they returned with a wagon heaped with 'prairie wool.' They'd pull up on the scale, get weighed, then head over to the stack yard and, using large pitchforks, would unload it in fairly good time.

Grandpa would watch them from time to time. One day he was sure he counted only two of them driving the load but then noticed three of them stacking the hay. Then another day there were four busy pitching off the load. Then, not surprisingly, there were five.

Well, you've got to hand it to the Indians, they knew how to add extra weight to the load without having to actually sell it.

Finally Grandpa got wise. They would pull the wagon onto the scale then Grandpa would grab a pitchfork and start probing the load, not shoving the fork in too far because he wasn't actually trying to stab anyone. 'Who's in there?' he'd demand, and almost always two or more of them would come crawling out of the load.

But it didn't take long before the vendors got a little wiser. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and that there is always a way around an obstacle. The two men pulled the wagon onto the scale and Grandpa probed the load with the fork handle. He got no response so finally concluded that there weren't any stowaways. The two men unloaded the wagon then brought it around to weigh empty to figure out the tare. Grandpa paid for the load and everyone parted company, satisfied.

For a spell.

Grandpa would send the boys to load up some hay and take it to the barn. When the task was done, one of them would inevitably ask about that huge rock that was next to the haystack.

Grandpa was always good natured about the whole episode. He simply joked that he bought a lot of
Indians... and maybe a few rocks...