They Made A Wasteland

Great to see it’s over, or almost over. I hope so anyway, whatever’s next. I must say I haven’t seen a log truck loaded like that since I left the industry myself. I was on the point of getting all misty-eyed with the memories I was so blown away with such an awesome sight. Cedar, all of it, fine good-sized red cedar logs.

I did a lot of second loading myself, happy and proud to do it dodging around the claim with the loader in our own pickup. Boomer was a master and I thought it strange, in a way, that I’d come this far in little more than a year from a rookie setting beads to second loading for Carl Boomer, city slicker and gentleman amateur that I was.  I must have been good.

We loaded eight trucks one day. Most impressive, The Woods Foreman was content. Boomer could pour you a cup of tea with the grapple on his loader and spill nary a drop he was that good. Always a pleasure working with someone who knows what they’re doing. I wish it happened more often. If you’re still out there somewhere, Carl—Avanti!

It’s 2019.  It’s all good.  I loved being a logger.  It’s a lot of logs later. I don’t know what’s happening in the Alberni Canal and have to say don’t much care. But it was important to me once, it was a job. All of it. I wanted the work. But it’s 2019 and do we still need the wood? What really was of absolute necessity here? Deforestation as an issue hasn’t gone away anywhere.

Human beings are great. They will justify the unjustifiable forever. Why? Pride. As the Tsawout Edler explained not too long ago in the spirit of reconciliation, “We can’t get rid of you and you can’t get rid of us.”  It’s all good.

Someone’s got to do the esplanin around here so there it is. That’s why woodland massacres happen like the one that unfolded out here on the rarely visited, wild and woolly lands to the east on this mysterious island.  Maybe it was the belief that no one would notice.

I couldn’t help it. It was the first thing that came to mind as we motored past that new road off the main drag to the east, way out past the Winter Cove Road junction, mud from the new road splattered all over the pavement.  It certainly looks like a purpose-built road for logging hacked out and built up with one thing in mind.


A clearcut by any other name is still a clearcut. And those few lonely, tall deciduous trees left standing in the middle of this big patch of decimated woods are left to represent what? Conservation? Some people have odd senses of humour.

I couldn’t help it. “They made a wasteland and called it peace.” They made a wasteland and called it progress, initiative, getting our own back, it’s ours and we can do what we want with it. But apparently what’s gone on is also, to some, looking a lot like a fiasco, with, you guessed it, unintended consequences. Perfect. I don’t have the details in front of me. Who needs details when you can see for yourself?

I had an affliction once that fortunately I was able to outlive—a weakness for Penguin Classics. I’d buy them at the drugstore when I was supposed to be reading other stuff during my mis-education at university. Tacitus. Agricola. Stand back here it comes.

Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

They made a wasteland and called it peace. I know. My Latin’s a tad rusty too. I don’t concern myself too much with it and you shouldn’t either. Don’t worry about it. Times have changed.

My Latin was as non-existent then as it is now which is why I was reading Tacitus in good old English provided by a couple of fine old English scholars when I should have been reading my psyc textbook which I quite naturally found an agonizing bore. Psyc had the days, Tacitus had the nights.

I liked the Romans, thought they were cool. They got by without a lot of stuff we take for granted today like power saws and log trucks. The use of slaves wasn’t cool but the Romans weren’t without their good qualities. Aqueducts. What’s cooler than that?

And they had some pretty good writers and some pretty lousy emperors. The question remains even now. Why wasn’t I in “Classical Studies” as they were called, at the great university? Because, like so many humans, I’m contrary.

Everything’ll be okay. That’s what Nana always used to say and Nana was always right. Almost always anyway. I can go on making my dubious distinctions and  doubtful, arcane references and the rest of the wood on the ground will be taken away and the future will unfold. Nana was brilliant. Of the making of controversy there is no end, Nana used to say. Eat your porridge. Try it with some Roman ruins. Yum…

Temple of Artemis, Jordan. David Bjorgen/Wikipedia

Pansies courtesy CS Nicol

Thomson Park III

It’s a state of mind when you get to the third in the series and at the start you didn’t even know it was going to be a series.  Is this one any good? Does it suck?  Is there too much animation, cardboard plots and bad acting? What is it?  As a professional critic we get paid to get out to things otherwise we might not go.  We might do something else. But this one is pretty good.  It’s right up there with the others.

Thomson Park III is a hit!  Get down!  Get down there and get all over it!

By the strangest coincidence, the most bizarre concatenation of events all too common when you get right down to it, there’s an article in the current Saturna Scribbler about this selfsame patch of ground Thomson Park. Just when I’ve got another movie coming out.  That’s great.  Syncronicity is still out there.  I believe.

There it is in the distance, the “Thomson Park shelter structure” which needs to be improved, apparently, “so it better reflects the historic, social and even spiritual values of this place.”

I just wonder what that can possibly actually mean?  It’s looking like a bomb-proof heavy steel pavilion structure on a concrete pad with a bunch of big, solid picnic-type tables under a pyramidal green metal roof.  With barbecue. There’s no improving on that. But we understand that it’s all volunteer. That’s what we’re doing ourselves.

Thomson Park is a “site” apparently.  It has a “spacial configuration” and a “functionality over time” and a “broader context in which it played a role”.

I must pause to ask the author of the article what is meant by “deep history”?  Is there “shallow history”?  Is there “not too deep history”? There’s one kind of history.  But that’s enough of this.

Wild speculation that the population of the region may have been “one million” just sounds like bunk.  I’m sorry.  And on to the concept of “settler”.  I’ve seen this before.  This was invented, this idea of “settler” or “settler communities” by one person, somewhere, somehow, in a dark, bureaucratic hole of bureaucratic bs.

There is no “settler” and no “recent settler community” and never was. There are no “settlers” around here and never were.  It’s an academic invention with an agenda and time it was exposed.  It’s heartbreaking.

We need first of all better writing about “Thomson Park” and what it is and what it was before it was “Thomson Park”.  You can’t have lousy writing talking about a special place. It diminishes.  Everything is turned into highly unsanitary mush.  Let’s get with it.  My opinion.

That isn’t what we’re talking about here.

First Nations Logging Show III

Oh deer, what is happening to my habitat?  Make them stop, mother.

We left Bob Stanley in good shape at the foot of Fiddler Rd.  We said “hi” again and told him we had to head back to civilization.  Everybody laughs at that joke and Bob was no exception.  Practically overnight he’d become like a diplomat and a diplomat trying to stay warm standing around all day in this beautiful cool, clear skies week.

He’d had to interact with all sorts of wonderful people with different, wonderful opinions on what was going on here and he was getting through it.  He was okay. He seemed to be a man of many moods, all of them good and the feeling emerged he’d been exactly the man for the job. Good on him and good on good old Campbell River where Bob’s from. Woo woo!

Crossingham Road

I just warned myself two seconds ago to forget about Crossingham Road.  You can’t write about Crossingham Road.  There’s nothing in it.  And then I immediately thought, “Why? Why should I forget about Crossingham Road?”

A thing exists, a road, a person, a tree, anything. It’s here and there’s a reason for that and that’s because it actually does exist, right here, so why, Mr. Pontificator, do you think this fine little road needs to be forgotten? That can’t happen. Why don’t we sit right down and talk it out.

So it’s pretty obvious that for a second there I didn’t want to have to do it but I’m a tourist. The need to explore the world and see what’s out there and experience different worlds and cultures is deeply ingrained in the minds and souls of us tourists. We’re hopeless like that.

And sometimes you have to pick yourself up off the ground, dust yourself off, unless it’s raining, and carry on up Crossingham Road to see what you can see. Because, as in so much of life, you’ve never been up there. And it’s waiting. I wanted to go. But I didn’t want to bug anybody that might be up there. I’m shy. So I hesitate, something I’m excellent at.

It’s chemistry. It’s everything. The name “Crossingham” brings back memories. Cross. Cross it out. King’s Cross. Cross of Iron. Old wooden cross. Crossingham. Crossword puzzle. Crossing the ham. Pass the ham. Crossing the road. Crossingham Road. What kind of a name is that, anyway, Crossingham? Sounds English.

But if there was a town in England called Crossingham they must have burned it down, plowed it over and planted sheep, meanwhile expunging from all memory any hint or residue of a recollection of a town called Crossingham, a scenario very doubtful, knowing England as I do.

There’s no English town and never was by the name of Crossingham and I’ve been over every square inch of England and I’m not the only one. Many of you I’m sure have done the same. Why doesn’t matter. So where does that leave us?

So I get it. Crossingham was the name of the first explorer to discover this road or maybe it wasn’t there yet and Crossingham, she or he, was the one who punched in the road on this ancient isle. I don’t think the natives did. But it would have been more like a short jab because the name of the road is almost as long as the road itself. And that’s pretty cool.

I did it again. I can’t just go walking up there. Who do I think I am? I stand at the crossroads of my life. It’s such a fine sign too. Perforated galvanized steel sign pole about seven feet and fine looking smallish rectangular sign with easy to comprehend coloured block capital letters indicating for weary travellers from anywhere the name of this pretty nondescript looking road.

This newish deploy of this style of signpost has popped up at a few spots. “That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop, the Twilight Zone.” Rod Serling was right. The potential for mayhem and illogic is just up ahead. The guy just never gets old.  He’s dead though. Something else to think about at the crossroads.

I’m glad I don’t stand at the crossroads of my career because my boast was I didn’t want any sort of career. And I’d look like a fool to myself now if I’d made a big success of something. I look like a fool anyway but it’s more the type of fool I envisioned for myself. The type who thought he did his best and thought wrong. With a splash of irony.  I can live with myself which, please believe me, hasn’t always been easy. Together we can.

So much for the confessional at Crossingham Road. Now I’m running low on time and have to get going because I’m needed elsewhere and the voyage of discovery has to wait again.

Boot Cove

Triangle Cove is more like it. That’s what it looks like from space. And you have to look hard or you’ll miss it. Kind of an off-kilter isosceles down there, Chuck. Copy Bill. That is one strange looking little triangle. Wow, this is great. Here comes Thailand already. Cool.

I get it I get it. Boot Cove is named after Rear Admiral Solomon Dayrolles Boot, RN. It’s got nothing to do with geometric forms or boots or any other crazy idea. And it was only the Britishers anyway that gave it that name. This place had lots of names before old Dayrolles came along. Still does matter of fact.

In another part of the playground and from one angle Boot Cove does or could resemble a boot or an overshoe which undoubtedly contributes to the misunderstanding. It was never going to be called Overshoe Cove.  That would  be just plain silly, but lots of things are silly.  In fact it might be nice if more things were.

I believe my people called Boot Cove shelter from the storm. I can’t say for sure because I wasn’t there. In fact as a human being I was barely formed. They were looking for a home away from home for a long time. They finally found one on Boot Cove even if they had to build it themselves.

Had it built for themselves, that is.  With their bare hands builders ripped and clawed and hacked a patch out of the rather precipitous slope then got together the wood they needed and proceeded to go completely nuts.  Don’t you just love happy endings? But it was just the start.

I wasn’t there for the ending either but again, as with all things, it became a beginning for somebody else.  In fact I didn’t appear until years later.  I became a guest in a special world with a type of people new to me in whose company I became privileged  to walk.  And the day those people accepted me as one of their own was the greatest day of my life.  So good.  So heartwarming.

The patch of ground and the dwelling have remained largely the same, nestled into the bank just off the road so’s you’d hardly notice.  Sweet.

Boot Cove, as all coves aspire to be, is almost always very calm. It’s a great place to calm down if you’re feeling agitated which is good medicine in any language. That’s why people like to come here and also why people like to stay here, some of them for as long as possible.

Forever’s a long time though. You also have to be in the right mood for Boot Cove. You might not like it at all. Steep banks rise up right from the water, there’s almost no shoreline and you can get lost on the East Point Road–Boot Cove Road–Payne Road merry-go-round until you just want to throw up. What’s the address again of this place we’re looking for?

But once the sense of failure subsides and you’ve finally landed your stay, no matter how long, can become quite interesting. There’s nothing trivial in nature.

Seclusion is the thing around here.  You’re not all that secluded but you feel secluded.  Like being in your own little world.  At least you don’t feel excluded. There’s not a whole lot going on and even if there is it can all seem kind of far away.  They have theirs, you have yours.  And someday maybe you’ll get invited!

Boot Cove is part of the old island. It looks like it’s been around too. Especially the place my friend was staying in. It needed a housekeeper which my friend is definitely not. I could see the dreams that had gone into the place and imagined the kind of impression it would have made when it was new. I always look to see if the place is here and it always is.

Mad Micky Packs It July 26

Nobody called him that.  “Mad”.  Except my father-in-law whose mother, Amelia, was Edward “Mick” Mannock’s cousin.  “Micky” yes, but surely not “mad”.  I was re-reading ole father-in-law’s autobiography after 20 years, one of 37 books he published, and I didn’t recall him calling him that from the first read-through so it stuck out.  Everything’s twenty years.

Major Mannock 1918

But today, July 26, 1918, it’s “Major Mannock”.  But it’s still good ole “Mick” to friends unless they’re dead.  Dreary stuff, Eleanor.  I seem to have taken over 85 squadron at St. Omer, France.  Why would anyone want to do a thing like that?

It’s all getting a bit vieux chapeau, Gertrude.  Stupid war.  All this bloody killing. 1918 and we’re still bloody going at it. I’ve had it.

I’m not sure why a “Major.”  What else have I been wrong about?  He was too modest.  Staff sergeant Milliby said: “If you’ve been gazetted a major, Major, then you’re bloody well a major.”  So that’s the reason why.

Mick didn’t take a course in killing German airmen in WWI.  He was self-taught.  He killed with a ferocious efficiency.  Early on at 40 Sqd. returning from a patrol the right wing on his plane fell off at 700 feet.  Rather than die he managed to crash land.  After that nobody wanted to talk about how Mannock didn’t know what he was doing.

Gentlemen, always above, seldom on the same level; never underneath.”

And don’t follow your kill down.  You can get shot up from the ground.  Especially true for Mannock because he always attacked from the east and his combats were always over German-held ground.  He was the top “Ace” of the Great War.

I have my own theory about what happened to Mick Mannock that cheerful July morning over the lines under low cloudcover at five am.   After those two bastard enemies in the German flying contraption were killed.  The Kiwi, Inglis, was in on it.

“Both my guns were going full out, when suddenly the Hun’s tail shot up in front of me.  A chill ran through me as I pulled up, just missing his tail and wing by a fraction.  Looking back I saw my first Hun going down in a mass of flames.”

The Blue Flame

It was a special trip because the squadron usually didn’t open much before 8 a.m.  But Inglis needed a first Hun and the major, who by now wasn’t just a legend in his own mind but a greatly respected leader and teacher, and, sine qua non, survivor, wanted to help the Hun-less flyer out. Of course he did.

“We circled once and started for home.  The realization came to me we were being shot at from the ground when I saw the major stop kicking his rudder.  Suddenly a small flame appeared on the right of Mick’s machine, and simultaneously he stopped kicking his rudder.  The plane went into a slow right-hand turn, the flame growing in intensity, and as the machine hit the ground it burst into a mass of flame.”

“I saw no one leave the machine and then started for the lines, climbing slightly and at about 150 feet there was a bang and I was smothered in petrol, my engine cut out so I switched off and made a landing 5 yards behind our front line.”

Nice Pants

That’s not Mick, of course.  He’s dead even if it is only five-thirty in the morning.  That’s the after action report of Inglis, who’d come all the way from the southern hemisphere to give battle, but hadn’t killed anybody before this morning.

It’s quite evident.  It’s never been precisely determined where the Germans buried the major’s body. It’s another one of those things that happened 100 years ago.  Birth, death, it’s all the same.  If things had gone a bit different, and Major M. had got through this morning, he could still be alive.

Quotes from “MANNOCK The Life and Death of Major Edward Mannock VC, DSO, MC, RAF.  By Norman Franks and Andy Saunders. Published 2008.