Month: February 2022

sledding a career?

Just watching some of the olympic events this weekend, and I have to say, after watching Luge, Skeleton, and the bob sledding events, I realized how popular sledding really was if I knew sliding would be an olympic event, I would have continued sliding on my Krazy Karpet!

What fun we had as kids, sliding on ‘Grappy’s Hill’. The hill was a twenty minute walk to get to the top, but the ride was well worth it. The narrow trail, created by my grandfather as he hauled firewood with his old Ski-Doo Elan, wound up a steep hill, through trees and brush. In the middle of the winding trail there was a giant rock with sharp edges that us kids somehow avoided even though we flew down the hill. some kids made it a challenge to see just how close they could come to the ‘Big Rock’. Luckily, none managed to hit it.

In the spring when the weather got milder, we used to build ski jumps at the bottom of the hill. We just used snow, and brought water from the river to pour on the jump, and make it icy. We used K-Tel Mini Skis, which were short plastic skis with laces for bindings. They strapped to your boots.

It is hard to believe none of us got killed, as we soared down the icy hill, onto the icy ski jump, and head first into the fields beneath the hill. I had gotten quite good at jumping, but as we got older, we all grew out of sliding and moved into other things, like girls.

My first sliding adventure was the time I visited my older cousins, who lived down the road from me. My oldest cousin Raymond spent hours removing the hood from his father’s ’52 Chevy truck. The thing must have weighed over a hundred pounds, and was slick and shiny from the numerous times his dad polished the thing. He would have killed us if he thought we planned to make a sled from his pride and joy.

We attached a piece of chain to the front of the hood, and the three of us hauled the thing up the steep hill across the road from their home. When we got to the top, the thing felt like it was exited to take off. Given the weight of the thing, the slippery surface, the steepness of the hill, and the enormous push my cousins gave the sled, one could only imagine how fast we flew down the hill. We thought we had prepared for everything when we realized there was no way to stop this thing, as it hit the edge of the hill, and flew across the road, and onto the driveway. We continued sliding at an enormous speed until we brought up solid, into the side of the old truck.

I ran home the minute we stopped, leaving my cousins to deal with their dad and his now badly damaged truck. I think he grounded them for a month.

By the time I seen them again, it was summer, and they had moved on from sledding to cars, but that is another story.

Red Blooded

When I was a kid, growing up in a tiny community in Newfoundland, I thought the world was a great place. I was raised to believe that if you were honest, believed in God, went to church, and listened to your parents, your teachers, the police, and anyone else who were supposed to be telling you the truth, you would be a good person.

I was a curious kid, always asking questions like “Who are we?”, “Where did our family come from?”, to “Why is our skin so dark?” and the biggest of all, “Grappy, are you an Indian?” Which was quickly silenced by my Grappy, who got very insulted by my question. I really didn’t want to hurt his feelings, I just wanted a simple yes or a no. He could give me neither.

I used to wonder why these questions were so bad. Why was it so bad to ask if we were indians? I know in the westerns we watched on Uncle Roddy’s tv, the Indians used to scalp innocent cowboys, kill their kids and do bad things to their wives, so I guessed that was why my grandfather didn’t want me asking him, or accusing him of being a savage like them people in the westerns.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how he was so good at doing stuff. He farmed cattle, pigs, chickens. He had horses, planted gardens, cut and harvested hay. In the fall he would slaughter the pigs, and a cow or two, so he could provide fresh meat for his now grown adult kids. He would waste nothing. He used the skin, to make hides, which he sold, the bones to make handles for knives, he even used pieces of cow hide to make hinges for the shed doors. He made all his own farm equipment. He hunted rabbit and moose, and partridges and other animals to provide food. I used to wonder how he learned all this stuff. he would always say he just knew how to do it.

As my curiousity about indians grew, I asked him more questions, to the point I think he drove me away. “You must be an indian, Grap” I would say. I remember his response was to warn me to never ask those questions, and most of all, never tell anyone he was an indian.

What great shame it must have been for this man, so skilled at so many things, secrets passed down from his father and mother, them from theirs. Secrets of how to live off the land, how to survive the impossible. The stories of his forefathers, their struggles, all in his mind, too shameful to share with his kids and their kids. He was ashamed to even believe they could be true. All because of one man. A man who claimed he saved the province from poverty and how just one little lie meant the province could join a nation called Canada. No sacrifice too large to ask, just deny who you are, who your parents are, where you came from, and in some respect, where you are going.

When Joey lied to the Canadian Government, and told them there were no indians in Newfoundland, this lie caused a ripple effect across the province. With that little ‘white’ lie, everything about my family’s past was swept under the carpet, so to speak. Being indian meant a great shame, as indians were portrayed as lazy drunks, instead of the hard working people they really were. I wonder if, before 1949, if someone looked at my grandfather and asked if he was an indian, would he have been proud to say he was, brag about his skills and his love of the land, instead of hiding his head in shame?

Could he have given me better answers about who he was, and who I was? Could he have shared those skills with me, and even more important, could he have shared the secrets with me? The stories passed down through the ages, of a time when his people lived off the land, and survived on their own without government handouts and government lies?

I wish my grandfather was alive today. I wish he could witness the pride felt by his descendants, knowing we can hold our heads high, knowing we are

Indian.

um…where’s our chicken?

Back in the 90’s I partied pretty hard. Being a single guy with his own home, I had plenty of ‘friends’ who loved to party at my place, and as you might imagine, this made for quite a few funny stories to tell.

One evening, think it was a Saturday, we all got together at the house. They guys made sure to bring lots of beer, and I guess they figured I had lots of food, so nobody brought any. I didn’t have food, save for maybe a bottle of jam or two, maybe some peanut butter, and some beer in the fridge. I was single, and mooched off of my parents for food, so I never seen the point of buying groceries that would go bad.

My home is in the country, there are roads everywhere leading to wooded areas, farms, etc. Like I said, I live in the country. We had no numbers on our homes at the time, so giving a description of where we lived was always confusing. I had the number of power poles from the beginning of the road to my house memorized. I was at 38 power poles lane as we called it.

After we drank most of our beer, we all got hungry. One of the guys decided to call a cab to bring us some chicken from Mary Browns Fried Chicken, a popular fast food joint in the area. When the driver asked where to deliver it to, my buddy said “You drive into the community, then there is a road on the right, its the only road on the right in the entire community. Just come on down the driveway and we will be there. He left the driver my phone number in case he got lost. This was around 11:00 p.m.

We must have waited three, maybe four hours, when we got impatient and called the Taxi Cab stand, to ask where our chicken was. Dispatch put us through to the driver. He didn’t sound good. He asked “Do you live down a road off the main road, down over a very steep hill with trees all around?” I said “No, just down a lane off the main road once you pass the woods road on the right. ” Then I said “Oops, I am on the second road into the community. You went on the road leading to the country. Turns out the guy drove over the shoulder of the road, move than 400 feet over the edge of the road into a bog.

“Can you call me a tow truck please?” he begged. “My car is all beat up, I am lucky I lived.” He said, about the same time one of my friends hollered out…”so what about our chicken? Have you got it? We can come get it. How far down are you?”

We never got our chicken.

The Luge run

Being a kid back in the 70’s, we found things to keep us occupied. I grew up in a small community, surrounded by family and friends. I was never at a loss for a buddy, or in this case, a side kick.

Ricky was my best friend. He was a different kid, who at just ten years old, could do almost anything. He could weld, he could build anything out of wood, I even seen him fix cars with his uncle. He could do everything except school stuff. Reading was a challenge, so he never did it. A lot of the kids picked on Ricky because he had a speech impairment, but it never bothered me. I found him cool.

Anyway back to the kid olympics of the seventies. We actually built a luge for the summer. We just didn’t know what a luge was, or that it was meant for sliding down steep icy tracks in winter.

When I said ‘we’ built a luge, I meant I came up with the idea, Ricky put it together. We were always building go carts (I mean Ricky was always building them) and on this occasion, we didn’t have a lot of things to make a normal go cart, but Ricky’s dad had a garage with a ton of junk out back. We took a piece of plywood, a few boogie wheels (part of an old Ski-doo suspension that consisted of small rubber wheels), a few pieces of pipe, and a two by four.

Ricky fashioned the pieces together, making a device that resembled a garage creeper. We would have used a garage creeper, Ricky’s dad had one, but he would have killed us for taking it. Using the two by four and the pipe, Ricky fashioned a steering mechanism controlled by whomever was driving the thing at the time. All you had to do was push either end of the two by four to steer. It was fail proof…or was it.

anyway, we couldn’t wait to try it. The thing sat less than two inches off the pavement. (Did I mention we just got our road paved?) Kids everywhere on makeshift go carts, sailing down the hill leading to the community. We were going to do one better with our new cart. Here is a drawing of the go cart. (I am a better writer than artist, so I used Paint to do the drawing)

We hauled the thing to the top of the long hill. I got on back and laid down, Ricky got in his seat, laid on back as well, with his head tilted so he could see where we were going. “Hang on for the made in voyage” he stuttered, as we pushed off and headed down the steep hill. We must have been doing quite the speed when we both realized we forgot one very important part of our cart, BRAKES!!!

A bread truck was headed up the hill the same time we were flying down the hill. Two ten year old kids, lying on a piece of plywood on wheels, no brakes, and basically hauling ass, went right under the truck! I can still see the driver’s eyeballs as we drove under his truck. He slammed on the brakes but we were ok, and we kept hauling down the hill despite his curses for us to stop. Hell, we never had brakes. I think I seen the devil on the way down that hill, my adreneline flowing as fast as the wheels on the cart, as we coasted to a stop nearly a mile from where we started.

“Whatta rush! Let’s do it again” Hollered Ricky, as I vomited on the road side. “No thanks,” I said, still shaking from the ride. While Ricky couldn’t wait to tell his brothers and sisters of our adventure, I swore him to secrecy, as our parents would have surely killed us for almost getting killed.

I hear the driver of the truck retired after that incident.