Category: It’s True

Friday Fictioneers:Tony and me

 

sderd

Go and take care of your sisters

momma used to say.

Tony would take us in the field

and we would play.

One day he left home

to fight in the great war.

and we would lie in the back fields

and pray to the stars

that he would come home someday

and we could play.

But that never happened.

His friend was cleaning his gun

and it misfired.

They say Tony went quick

and the soldier was sorry.

We lost our big brother that day.

They buried him in a field

where my sisters and I,

and Tony

sometimes play.

This is my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers. I regret to say that this story is all too real, and not fiction at all. I just had to tell his story.

This is a factual account of how my grandmother, Emma Luedy, lost her older brother, Anthony back in WW2. His best friend was cleaning his rifle when the gun misfired, killing Tony immediately. The soldier was so affected by this accident that the next day, on the battlefield, he dropped his gun to the ground and allowed himself to be killed by the enemy. A tragic story that was all too real.

On this Remembrance Day, I salute the soldiers who gave their lives so that we may be free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribute to a soldier who never returned home

He was just 17 when he left, but he looked every bit of 15. With his heart set on saving the world from Nazi Germany, he joined the army. Mommy cried and so did Daddy, but he never told anybody. In those days, men were strong and didn’t go crying. I still remember Joseph walking down the concrete walkway Daddy and him poured just last summer.

Joseph  was always mommy’s favourite. She denied that she had a favourite, but we all knew better. All 7 of us kids were proud of our  brother and despite the tears, mommy and daddy were proud of him as well, plus he promised to write every week.

It seemed as if Joseph was gone forever. At times we doubted whether he was ever coming back. Mommy kept track of all his letters, most of them stained with dirt and sometimes even blood. We knew it must have been hell over there, so far from home, nobody he knew or even trusted, but he stayed anyway.

A few of his friends came home early, either in body bags or with some part of their body broken or gone. Oh the town celebrated their return, but in time they were forgotten; just cripples who hung out at bars and usually caused trouble.

We got news reports on the radio about how our forces were doing, but the reports spoke about the army in general, never a specific person.

In the six years he was gone, things sure changed around here. Daddy was sick a lot. TB or something; at least that’s what the Doc said. Daddy couldn’t breathe very well, and couldn’t work. Mommy had to take jobs outside the house, mostly cooking and cleaning for the big shots in town. We almost starved.

I remember the day they made the announcement. The war finally ended. We anxiously awaited the return of our brother. When the bus pulled into town, we were there, mommy and all us kids. We waited patiently for all the soldiers to exit the bus. Joseph wasn’t there. Mommy cried her eyes out while trying to screen us from the terror she felt, but we knew how she was hurting.

We lost Daddy that summer too. What a bummer year. After all those years of dealing with TB, it finally took him.

We still wait for Joseph, hoping that one day, a bus will arrive and he will step off and hold us in his arms.

I help mommy lots now. She has to work for all the big shots, keeping their kids fed and their houses clean. I do all that now, I am boss here over all the little ones, but I still miss my  brother.

A few years back, while volunteering at a senior retirement facility, this story was relayed to me. Annie, a very sweet old lady reminisced about her brother, and how they lost him at such a young age. The workers in the home thought she was crazy, always talking about some guy named Joseph. I listened to her and found that she was quite sane; even at 97, she never forgot one detail of her young life or about her brother.

I presented her story here, for the world to read. I feel that since tomorrow is Remembrance Day here in Canada, it would be a good time to tell her story. Lest we forget not only those who lost their lives fighting for freedom, but also for the families who like Annie, anxiously awaited their loved ones to return home.

me and Khaled and the bus trip across Newfoundland

It  was the winter of 2004 when I made so many trips across the island on the DRL bus. It was just after I had undergone surgery to remove a large tumor, and I still hadn’t completely healed from the surgery. My right eye still wasn’t blinking properly, and staring at anything for any length of time hurt like hell. From the date of my surgery (Dec 12, 2004) until Dec 12 2010, I traveled across the island (by bus) eleven times for MRI tests and doctor visits.

Lucky for me, I brought along my trusty Ipod Classic. The little gadget had 80gb of storage, and I was fortunate that I loaded on several audiobooks prior to my trip. My brother told me about this fantastic book he had read about two Afghanistan kids, so I decided to start with this one. The book was entitled ‘The Kite Runner’, and the audio was actually read by the author himself. I don’t believe anyone can present the material as well as the person who actually writes it, and this proved it.

While on my trip, I was totally captivated with the story. I never noticed the bus leaving, or even stopping.

The other passengers on the bus must have considered me to be rude, as I never spoke to anyone, just sat there listening to Khaled tell me the story. One lady who was sitting next to me asked if I were a deaf mute. Talk about the nerve; and even if I were a ‘deaf’ ‘mute’, I wouldn’t be able to hear her question or relate my answer.

A few of the people I shared a seat with poked me with their elbows and received a dirty glare, which usually works. The worst thing about traveling long distances on the bus are the people who sit next to you. Some of those people are downright annoying and I always seem to get the worst ones.

On this trip I was unlucky enough to be sitting next to an old lady who tried to convert me to Jehovah’s Witness. I think I turned the volume up even louder than I had it before. Eventually she got tired of shoving pamphlets in my face and went on to bother someone else in the next aisle. Poor guy. I bet he wished that he had Khaled read to him as well.

One guy asked what the little gadget was. When I took a small break from the story I explained to him that I had a guy in the little box and that he was reading a book to me. I know, cynical, but hey, gotta have some fun.

At the end of the 13 hour bus trip (We got caught in the middle of one of the worst winter storms in the past five years and had to stay put numerous times and wait for the driver to be able to see at least three feet in front of him), everyone else was at their wits end, while I stepped off the bus relaxed and satisfied with the trip. I thanked the bus driver (While everyone else cursed him) and went on my way. If you haven’t listened to a book before, give it a try. Very relaxing to say the least.

career choices

I was sixteen when I told my parents that I wanted to be a logger. My dad almost cried. Dad worked as a logger (and practically anything else he could find) for many years and his only wish was for me (and my siblings) to do something better.

They both coaxed me to do something else, like college or even trade school. I didn’t think I was ready to leave home at 16, so I opted to do a program at a local college. Clerk Accounting was the only program where there were seats available.

Armed with a terrible set of math skills, I attempted the program. I hated math throughout grade school and I hated it in trade school. One thing I did like were the girls in the business courses…perhaps the only reason why I continued the course.

The instructor told me that my writing was atrocious. Not knowing what the word meant, I thanked him for the compliment and continued to do my writing as sloppy as I had been, sometimes even more sloppy in hopes of another great compliment from him. I didn’t get one.

By Christmas it was obvious I wasn’t going to work as an accountant. BORING! Even if I could manage to finish the course, I wouldn’t want to work at this. I missed the outdoors and wanted to work along with my dad, in the woods.

After Christmas, all students in the Clerk Accounting program had to go out on a work term. Mine was with a now defunct building supply company. The owner was insane and never spoke one word to me the entire time I was there, (Two of the longest weeks of my life) and his sons (the manager and assistant manager) were as rude as the senior.

They wouldn’t let me do anything. Each day I was to sit and stare at an empty general ledger. This was done while sitting in an abandoned office next to the toilet. What a smell!

The only time anyone spoke to me was when the toilet was occupied. Being sixteen, nobody took me serious, not even me!

Back at the college for two more months of suffering. Typing and office management courses. I must say, the only thing I took from the entire program was my typing knowledge. I learned to type on an old manual Sears typewriter. I was second fastest typist in the school, bet only by a limber fingered girl who I had a crush on.

Trouble with learning to type on a manual typewriter? I pound the keys. I usually go through two keyboards per year, (Even now!!)

One day the instructor approached me. He said that my math grades weren’t high enough to pass the course (big surprise), and that he recommended that instead of working to obtain a Clerk Accounting diploma, I should work towards a Bookkeeping certificate instead. This meant that I would be moved from the CA class and into a female filled Bookkeeping classroom. Of course I agreed!

I didn’t do well with that class either. I spent too much time looking at all the girls. Remember, I was sixteen. (youngest graduate in high school that year) I bet I would have scored 100% if I was tested on the names of the women in the classroom!

Anyway, once I finished the school year, bookkeeping certificate (worthless anywhere in the world) in hand, I quickly traded my general ledgers and pencils for a chain saw, and did what I always wanted to do….for twenty years.

I am working at a great job now, but still look back fondly on all the years I worked alongside my dad, cutting pulpwood, chatting, and basically loving life.

My latest toy

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A few weeks back, while being bored at work, I decided to visit Kijiji.ca and have a look around. I wasn’t really in the market for anything, just nosy. What I did find was a fantastic deal on an ATV.

The ad said MINT. These days the word has been misused to death, but this time, it was an accurate description of the bike. The guy hardly used it, and despite being manufactured in 2007 as a 2008 model, it looked as if it had just left the showroom floor.

With only 2600 kms on the thing, it wasn’t even broke in. I spoke to the guy who was selling it, and managed to haggle just enough to bring the price down to something I could afford. He actually dropped $500 over the phone.

With a four hour drive to the town that he lived in, I was anxious to get there. My brother (and his trailer) accompanied me, and when we finally arrived, we were amazed at the condition of the bike.

When we got out of the truck, the guy’s little boy (around 2 years old or so) came running out saying “Don’t buy that bike, it is JUNK!”

Not the best thing to hear after driving this far! His father came out laughing. Apparently he told his youngster that the bike was junk so he wouldn’t cry while we took it away. Hopefully that was the case!

Just as he described over the phone, the bike was in immaculate condition. He only used it to take his kids for rides on the railway bed. (T’Railway is a park in Newfoundland, created when the old CN railway was shut down and the tracks were removed. You can travel across the entire island on those trails if you have an ATV).

We took it out for a test drive and it drove even better than it looked. We loaded it on our trailer and did some paperwork. Excited to get home and ride it, I had to wait another 4 hours.

When we finally got home, it was pouring rain. The wife and I put on our rain gear and went riding anyway….at 10 p.m.

Last weekend, we were invited to a trail ride with some old friends. Although I was excited to take my new bike, we didn’t have enough room for our gear. I had to borrow my brother’s side by side, which featured a large bed on the back. He used my bike while we were gong.

We traveled from our home in Stephenville to Serpentine Lake, some 96+ kms from the door step. Using the above mentioned T’Railway system, the trail was perfect.

When we arrived at the site, the road was covered with water. The lake was very high, and we had to travel through over two feet of water to get to the camping area. Although scary, we got to the other side very quickly. The reward for the trip was the fantastic scenery. What a beautiful spot.

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As you can see, the place was beautiful. I stood in awe at the beauty and enjoyed the fresh mountain air.

Later that day, we set up camp and had a large cook up. Everyone shared the food and we ate like kings. When the air became chilly, we built a large campfire and everyone gathered around. A bit of recorded music on my tiny but powerful Bose Soundlink and everyone was up dancing and having a great time (and a few drinks).

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The only downside (other than having to trade bikes with my brother for the weekend) was the mosquitoes. There were thousands of the beasts, and they were hungry. This year has been very wet and mostly overcast, and the flies seem to really enjoy the damp air. Hopefully this won’t last throughout the entire summer.

A good sleep in our tent and in the morning, we ate a hearty breakfast of baloney, eggs, beans, and toast. We set out early because we wanted to get home early enough to cook supper. Ah Summer.

On Monday, while bored at work (again), I was looking on Kijiji again, and this time I found a ATV trailer that a guy had made. The picture showed exactly what I wanted. Lots of cargo space and decent clearance for stumps and brush. I called the seller, and even though he was located three hours away, I was going to buy this trailer. He wanted $475, but I was able to talk him down to $350. Pretty good deal.

When I got there, I was greeted by a friendly gentleman who showed me the trailer. He said that since retiring, he had to find something to do with his time, so he began restoring cars and building trailers. He took me on a tour of his garage where I seen a car under a cover.

His pride and joy, a 1962 Ford Frontenac, a Canadian made Ford sedan. The car was restored to original condition and was beautiful. He said that he quickly lost interest in restoring cars due to the high price of parts, but he enjoyed making trailers more. I doubt he made any money though, he must have put a ton of work and parts into making the trailer I bought.

11659430_10155698535040123_5455881113772613373_nMy wife loved the trailer because it matched the bike! Now we are ready for out next adventure. I will post the pictures.

cardboards

‘Cardboards’. That’s what they were called. Native Americans rounded up in a tiny village and forced to live there for generations. Alcohol and drugs were their only escape, if you could call it that.

Back in the Eighties, a government plan to keep the people on the island gave money to the people in the community. The money was to build new homes or fix up the ones that they had. With a home, the people remain, and the population of the province doesn’t suffer. Trouble was, it wasn’t enough money, and the money wasn’t managed properly. Homes were erected, but without enough money to finish the buildings and renovations, many houses were left unfinished.

The cheapest building materials were used, and a product called ‘Donna Conna’ which was manufactured in Quebec, covered the sides of the homes in the area. A fiber wood by-product with a black waterproof paint applied, was a common sight in the tiny village. Since the product was made mostly of paper, or cardboard, the people living in the community inherited the name of ‘Cardboards’.

Traditionally, ‘Cardboards’ went nowhere. They were mostly uneducated, living in a poverty stricken community without pride or ambition. The kids rarely finished school, often quitting school in their late teens and carrying on the traditions of their parents and grandparents.

In 2006, I took a job in a neighbouring community. I worked as a volunteer coordinator at an elementary school. The students of the school were a mix of kids from several communities, including a few ”Cardboards” who were still in school. They were the tough kids who NOBODY came near. In fact, I was warned by the school officials to stay away from those kids and leave them alone.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t always listen to advice. I like to make my own judgements about people. I seen kids. Not black or white or Indian or anything but school kids.

I came up with a plan to unite the school kids. I began working on setting up a spelling bee contest in the school. Teachers and even the principal said it would be impossible, partially due to the fact that spelling was no longer taught in the school system, and even if it was, school work wasn’t important to the kids here. All they wanted to do was to get out of school and do nothing with their lives.

I didn’t listen.

I was fortunate enough to find a few teachers who thought I might have had a good idea. They agreed to have small spelling bee contests in their classrooms, and in neighbouring classrooms, and to present me with a spelling bee winner from each class. I brought this to the principal. He was so amazed that the kids participated that he gave me total control of the project, with the semi-finals and eventually the finals to be held at the schools Assembly, at the end of each month.

One kid who stuck out was a kid named Louis. He came from the tiny village I spoke about earlier. Despite the fact that his home was no longer covered with ‘cardboard’, but with a more modern Vinyl siding, he was still known as a ‘Cardboard’. The stigma was hard to let go.

Louis was the best speller in his class. In fact, I tested him with a list of  very difficult words, and he got every word correct. Thing was, he wouldn’t enter the contest. He said that ‘Cardboards’ never went anywhere, and his mother would flip if she found out he was in a contest. He said that he was too stupid to win a dumb contest.

Despite his attitude, I never gave up on him. Out of my own pocket, I purchased a few small prizes, not much, but you have to remember, these kids had nothing. I offered a prize to anyone who participated in the semi-finals. I was amazed when Louis agreed to take part. Apparently  a girl told him that she was proud of him and that she liked ‘smart guys’, even if they were ‘Cardboards’.

Louis won every match and took a prize in the semi-finals. That same week, the school held Parent Teacher meetings, to discuss the student’s success. I was asked to take part, and to inform parents about the spelling bee.

I was standing in front of the crowd when I was approached by Louis’s mother. She was a rough looking woman with a scarred face and perhaps a scarred past as well. She angrily approached me, cursing as she headed towards me.

“You son of a bitch. Putting false hope in the minds of those kids. Most of all, you are putting false hope into the mind of my oldest child. Don’t you do that. First thing, he will begin asking to finish school. You don’t know how we live, you don’t understand us, our culture, our life!”

She went on to holler at me, the crowd now silent and listening to what she had to say.

“My Louis is not yours, he is mine. When he turns 15, he will quit school and take care of me. When I wake in the morning and I am dying from the pain of the night before, the sickness of alcohol and the agony of the drugs that run through my veins. Louis will be there for me. This is his place on earth, by my side, caring for me. You cannot take that from me.”

I responded “Louis is better than this. Louis is a smart kid who could go places. He can get out of this place and no longer be called a Cardboard. You should want this for your son. He shouldn’t have to live in a place where drugs and alcohol are the only way.”

I was surprised when the crowd began chanting Louis’s name. Slowly, his mother disappeared into the crowd and out the door. Louis, who seemed confused, joined me on the stage, along with the other kids in the contest. He proudly answered every challenge with the correct spelling of each word. When other kids stumbled on words like Vacuum and Conscience, he ripped out the letters and eventually, he won the contest.

The school had a pizza party for his class, and a trophy for Louis. I have never seen a kid as proud as he was on that day. His teachers cheered and honoured the students with prizes and a big cake. For one day, there were no ‘Cardboards’, only kids.

I had hoped that Louis would go on to big things. He had the brains to go to college and make something of himself. He didn’t. Louis done nothing, and by the time he turned 15, he quit school to care for his alcoholic mother.

You see, Louis ain’t nothing but a Cardboard, and everyone knows that the ‘Cardboards’ never go anywhere.

The Bucket Seat Story

Back when I was just a teenager with a new drivers licence, I met up with an assortment of characters. The funniest was probably Kevin. Kevin was a car nut. Every time I seen him, his hands were covered with grease and his clothes were even worst.

Most of the time he came to our cruising spot with his father’s old Fargo pickup truck. His father restored the truck to its original condition, and then painted it blaze orange…I doubt this was the original colour, but the truck looked good. Kevin drove the truck as if his life depended on it. Before he could get comfortable, he had to check every inch of the truck to see if there were any scratches on it before he left for home.

One day, Kevin arrived at the parking lot with a car he had been working on. When he arrived, everyone was in tears from laughing. You see, the car, an old Corolla, wasn’t in the best of shape. Kevin just replaced the floor when he got the urge to cruise. When he arrived, he was sitting on a beef bucket, rather than the seat. “What, you never heard of ‘Bucket Seats?’ ” he said.

That guy! He gave me some laughs.

Kevin went on to become a mechanic…one who only has two toes on his left foot. Another good story.

Road Rash and Beer

Back in the 90’s, while I was enjoying my second childhood, a bunch of guys (and a few gals) had lots of fun. My brother, while still in college, bought a Sega Genesis gaming system. Despite being archaic by today’s standards, the thing was a ton of fun. When a few of my friends and a few of his discovered we had a gaming system, it wasn’t long before they were knocking on our door, beer in tow, ready to challenge one another to a game of hockey or to bash each other’s heads in with bats while driving motorcycles.

We only had two games. NHL 95 and Road Rash. Every weekend, we gathered at my house, hooked the system to my old RCA floor model TV set (Hey, it was color!), broke out the beer, and had fun. No pressure, just fun.

While some may have regarded us as childish, we didn’t care. We would drink way too much, play hard, and eventually climb into a cab and journey to the popular nightclubs for more booze and maybe (hopefully!!!) some ladies.

We even made a hockey league, complete with trades. We had our own teams and we played as if it was serious hockey, along with a few laughs along the way. The graphics sucked, as only pixels on the screen represented the players, but you knew you were playing  hockey whenever the puck hit the net or you squished someone’s players into the boards. I even found a flaw (they were many) in the game where if you positioned your player at a 45 degree angle from the goalie, the puck always went in. Of course a rule was created so that I couldn’t do this (once everyone figured out why I won all the games) and I had to figure out how to score correctly (legally???).

The Road Rash game was especially fun. Split screens, one racer on top and one on bottom, as well as a barricade of cpu controlled riders made for a ton of fun. If a rider possessed a bat or a chain, or even a stick, you were able to kick or punch the rider until his stamina dropped, and then steal his weapon. You were also able to line up your opponent next to a car, and kick him into oncoming traffic. See, FUN!

Back then, games were simple, but I believe they were more fun. Throw beer into the mix and you had a ton of laughs. I was telling my kid about the game (not the beer) the other day and he says that it seemed fun. I hope he thinks this, as I just ordered the old gaming system as well as the road rash game on ebay.

Maybe now that my kid is 12, I can relive some of the fun (without the beer) and he can enjoy it as well. Click on the link and see for yourself. Don’t forget the beer!!

ROAD RASH

NHL 95

12

I wanna play with my toys and make bubbles and run and shoot bad guys with  my Nerf gun.

I want to talk to a new girl at school. I want to do my studies and I want to do well in school.

Why are adults telling me what to do? When to bathe? What to eat?

Why are the rules so strict? Why can’t I go to the mall on the weekend and spend time hanging with my friends?

Why do I have to do homework? Why are there final exams? Why is it important?

I wanna play with my old toys but I also want to date girls. I want to be a kid and I want to be treated like an adult. I don’t want to grow up but I have to.

Why can’t I make decisions for myself? I am grown up! Why don’t THEY see it?

Why do I have to follow THEIR rules?

Why do the other kids laugh at me when I tell them about my latest toys? Why do they laugh when I talk about my neighbourhood friends?

Why are they so mean? When will it all stop?

Why can’t it be like it used to be? Why can’t we all get along?

Why can’t my parents understand my battle? The one with being a kid vs growing up?

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We Understand. We were 12 once too. We used to question our parents’ decisions too. We used to get angry with our parents all the time. We used to wish we were little kids again so we didn’t have to deal with all the crap that comes from growing up. But we did grow up, and when we did, we seen that our parents made the rules so that we could become the people we are today. So that we could raise our kids so that they could become all that they will become. Because we love our kids.

Sometimes I wish I was 12 again…