Saturday, 29 December 2012

essay-guns part III

My father wasn't much of a hunter,even with a closet full of guns.He was busy working,sometimes at two jobs,and we lived in town,so the guns never came out much.And,while we were not wealthy,there was no real need to supplement the food we bought with wild game.

But the province of New Brunswick was then,and is now,mostly woods.Even if you lived in the city you could usually be in some place suitable for hunting in much less than a half hour.Hunting,fishing and trapping was a big part of the culture.For some people,it was just recreational,a chance to get out in the woods.Others lived in the woods for at least part of the year and lived a traditional lifestyle,taking most of their food from he land.The gun culture,such as it is in Canada was never far in the background.

When we visited the town where my mother's parents lived,you could not escape the reality of guns and hunting.Nearly everyone there hunted and fished,and some had large collections of fire arms.

My mother's sister and her husband owned a gas station on the road out of town.It was a place where people came to buy gas and groceries,but also a place where men,and women from all over town congregated to gossip and talk.All fall,all through hunting season people talked about guns,and hunting,and the deer or ducks they killed.Occasionally a car would come out of the woods with a deer strapped to the roof rack.It was not an uncommon site.And,because it was a small town,you could often hear far off gunshots as people hunted in the woods just outside of town.

Some of the men who came to the store were farmers,and they talked of guns too.They hunted like everyone else,of course,but they sometimes used guns for other things as well.Occasionally an animal would be injured in the course of life on a working farm,and would have to be humanely destroyed to end its suffering.The nearest vet would be miles away,so usually the farmer would handle the matter himself.And of course,on the farm there was the problem of predators,usually foxes or weasels that would come for chickens,but sometimes wolves or bears which could attack the larger livestock.Most farmers were poor and could not afford to lose animals.

The men in my uncles store liked to brag.About their guns,and how powerful they were.About the game they killed,or how good a shot they were,and,about what they would do if anyone ever came to break into their place.Most agreed that they would happily blow a burglar,or trespasser to Kingdom Come,if it ever came to it.This made more sense coming from farmers who lived miles away from the nearest police station,but it seemed silly for a city person to talk like that.If you had a handgun,I guess it was logical,but again,we lived in Canada.In the end,I'd never heard of anyone shooting someone for breaking in.By the time I'd found and loaded one of my fathers rifles or shotguns,Any half accomplished burglar would have come and gone.At least in the city,it would have made more sense to defend yourself with a baseball bat or a hockey stick.Even throwing a toaster at the offender would have been more practical.For a long gun of any sort to be effective,you would have to have it loaded and within arms reach by the bed,and I simply didn't know anyone that paranoid.Crime was very low then,and it was much more likely that you would blow all the down out of your feather bed getting up in the middle of the night to relieve yourself.Most people had guns for one purpose-hunting.And most people I knew hunted in a more or less responsible way.

                                          TO BE CONTINUED.  

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

memoir writer homework-first christmas away from home.

Thirty three years ago I moved from New Brunswick to Alberta.Over that summer,I traveled all over the west.I was working in construction,but things got slow in mid December,so I was laid off.I was living in Edmonton,Alberta.A few days before Christmas,an envelope arrived from home.Inside was a plane ticket.My first Christmas away from home wasn't going to happen that year.Except that I wouldn't be getting on the plane until Christmas night and would not arrive home until the day after Christmas.

Christmas Day that year was an odd one.Very warm and foggy.Eleven degrees Celsius.It looked more like Halifax or Vancouver,and because it was Christmas,there was nothing at all going on.Except of course at the house across the street.But it wasn't just a house,exactly.All day the men kept coming and going.That house was owned by a woman who lived in the house next door.Christmas was it's busiest day'

I lived in a rooming house.All of the other roomers were old men.Two were away,two were home.The old guy downstairs came home Christmas morning making a lot of noise as he stumbled in and tried to unlock his door.When he saw me he shouted Marry Christmas in a loud,drunken voice.And he told me a joke."Do you know why the Christmas Story could never happen in Alberta?"

Without waiting for my answer,he bellowed"because nobody could find three wise men and a virgin."Usually this guy was very quiet.

The other room mate was an old man called Ed.He liked to talk about escaping from Russia as a child at the time of the revolution.They had traveled across Siberia,to Vladivostok,then lived in Japan for a time,before moving to Indiana,where he went to school at Anderson College.It was a fascinating story if you had a few hours to spare,but I'd heard it before more than once.So I was trying to avoid Ed,who had a tendancy to forget that he'd ever told the story before.

At mid day I walked up the street to the corner store.I wanted to get some coke and something to eat and there was very little else open.As I was going away.I had nothing in the refrigerator.And of course,part of the purpose of going to the store was to flirt with Brenda,the clerk.But,as she was Old Order Mennonite,that wasn't going anywhere.

When I got home,Ed met me at the door.I was going to call,to book a cab for the trip to the airport,so I asked to use his phone.He would not hear of it.He would drive me to the airport,and he wasn't going to take no for an answer.So,he spent the rest of his day telling me his stories,about Christmas in Russia just before the revolution.At least they were new stories.At ten o'clock at night we got into his van and we were off to the airport.On the way,we spun out after hitting a patch of black ice,and we nearly hit a tree.But we arrived safely,and,ten minutes after Christmas ended,I was in the air,flying out over the Canadian Prairies in the dark.I arrived at dawn in Toronto,then went on to Montreal,where I had to wait over four hours in a nearly deserted airport.In a few hours I would be home.

essay-guns-part II

Canadian children don't really have the experience of growing up with firearms the same way American children do.Guns,or at least handguns are not such a big part of our culture.None of our founding fathers saw fit to enshrine the right of gun ownership into our constitution,so there is no real sense of entitlement when it comes to firearms.And for that I thank God.Because,through over fifty years of living,I've never been shot,or even shot at.I don't know anyone who has been shot or shot at either,and,in fact I've only ever heard gunshots a few times in my life.As for handguns,I've only ever seen one once or twice.I wonder if they become a weapon of choice where they are available in great numbers.

Here in Canada,I can confidently walk around in even the seediest areas of our large cities with very little fear of ever being shot at.Could I say the same if I lived in Oakland,Bridgeport,Little Havana,Newark or East St.Louis?Still,we do have some gun violence.It's not completely absent.Just before I left Toronto last spring there were a couple of high profile shootings.One involved a Rap musician going into a recording studio.In the other,just a few days later,someone entered a barbershop,murdered the barber as he was cutting hair,then left the shop on foot.

Still,having grown up in Atlantic Canada during the 1960's and 1970's,there was no real way to be ignorant of guns.But guns in that cultural sense normally meant hunting rifles and shot guns.Police,of course wore guns,in most cities then,but in one or two of the areas larger cities,even they were yet to take up arms.You couldn't find a handgun in most homes though.

Everyone,or almost everyone hunted.If you were to take one look at the land that my grandparents called home,near where New Brunswick meets the state of Maine,it would be immediately obvious that perdition was a fact of life.Guns were needed to protect property and perhaps even life.Foxes raided the chicken coops and there were bears and even wolves about.Some people worried about mad dogs back then too.And the nearest police station was miles away.Most people were quite poor and would take at least a portion of their meat off the land,so having a rifle was to a certain extent a matter of survival.Today,when I go just a few miles north of Moncton,one of the regions largest cities,I can hear coyotes just off the road,in the nearby bushes.There was a fatal coyote attack while I was down east the last time too,so,for rural people,not much has changed over the decades.

From a very early age I knew about guns.Well,I knew some things about them,that is,but not really the right things.Not very much that I knew would carry forward in time to last week's horror at Sandy Hook School.Essentially it was a Hollywood,pop culture kind of a knowledge,complete with a lot of other messages Hollywood was putting out at the time.Afternoon movies  would feature John Wayne in pursuit of murderous red skinned savages,Nazis or desperadoes across the television screen.After a final,climatic shoot out,all would end well,with all the proper people being dead.For me though,I was just a child,so I was not tuned into all of the political, cultural,racial or moral aspects of the show.For me it was just a matter of excitement and of knowing that all the bad people would be killed at the end of it all.I knew very little about virtue,but I could not miss the message that it came out of the barrel of a gun.

Gun death on television,in those days was very sanitary compared to today.The censors of the day,I'm certain would not allow you to see the reality of a man being shot in the chest with a .38 or a shotgun.If they had,it wouldn't have seemed nearly as virtuous.So there was just some smoke,a loud bang and some actors falling away in overly dramatic fashion.Not one drop of blood could be seen for the most part.It was a far cry from what would be shown today.And that is both good and bad.Bad because I could do without the graphics of such movies today.But good because such movies often have a political activism and a social conscience that was lacking back then.In short,they are a bit less likely to be propaganda now as opposed to then.Movies back then usually portrayed the justness of the historic American Cause.

There were always guns in our house.Again,by guns I mean guns for hunting,not handguns.They were stored in a closet just inside our front door,where they were propped up in a corner among our rain boots,with our coats and jackets hanging down from hangers just above them.They were not locked away,and though they were for hunting,if we were threatened,I suppose they could have been easily accessed.My father owned a twelve gauge,a .22,a.270 and a four ten shotgun.Once,when I was three or four,I even found a bullet in the basement and was playing with it until my mother came and took it away.I had no idea what it was.

With the idea of guns planted firmly in our minds from early childhood,we incorporated the idea into endless hours of play.Most of us,all of the male kids in my neighborhood,had toy guns of all varieties.I myself had a pair of six guns that could fire caps,and a toy Thompson machine gun that sounded quite real.Lots of kids had toy rifles too.So we would play war,or cops and robbers or Cowboys and Indians.

Cowboys and Indians was very much the same as on television.At least the outcome was the same.Dead Indians!Dead Germans!

To play any of these games required quite a few children.At least six most of the time.Two teams would be formed,and they would consist of "good guys"and "bad guys",with the bigger,older kids getting to decide who was who.The older kids didn't use the term "good guys"and "bad guys"though.If you played war in my neighborhood,you either got to be an American,or a "Kraut" if we were playing war.or a "Cowboy"or an "Injun"if the game was Cowboys and Indians.Sometime the "Krauts"would be "Japs".You didn't want to be an Indian or a "Kraut."Nobody did,because you always lost.You see,the game was rigged from the start with the older kids,or the in crowd,or the kids who could and would fight laying claim to all the spots on the team of "Americans."Or Cowboys.

Sometimes a girl would come by and want to play.If a girl was allowed to play at all,she had to be and Indian or a "Kraut."Without question,she would be lying dead at the end of each round of the game.There was the odd kid with mental disabilities who would come by and want to play too,and,of course,they always had to be on the team of bad guys.While the girls usually tired of the nonsense after a couple of rounds and went elsewhere,the kids with disabilities would play all day,thinking they were being included.But often it wasn't a welcoming kind of inclusion.

The way the game was supposed to work was that everyone would run and hide while someone counted to ten.When the count ended,you would all start looking for soldiers from the opposing team.When you saw one,you pointed your gun and shot.If you didn't have a gun,and often we didn't,we would just use sticks.If you fired your gun first,the other soldier was supposed to fall down dead.Except that the "Americans"usually wouldn't fall,saying that they shot first,of that the "Krauts" missed.Sometimes,though,these "Americans"would allow a token dead guy to come from their numbers,and sometimes a "Kraut"would be allowed to become a prisoner,but the "Americans"always won.And you would really rather be dead than be taken prisoner anyhow,because when you were taken prisoner,the older boys,the "Americans"got to execute you.And even though that was not real,it could still be humiliating.You'd be pulled to the side,and sometimes the "Americans"who were going to execute you  would poke you in the back with there guns,or even poke you in the crotch.And they would say things like"Damn Kraut" or"The only good Indian is a dead Indian"The toy gun would then be placed to the back of your head and fired,at which point you were dead.Game over!The "Americans"win again.And,if you didn't like the outcome,well,too bad.You'd not be allowed back in the game,and the older kids,the "Americans"could,and would enforce the rules.Usually that would involve pointing out to us that that was the way it really happened.We really couldn't argue with that.But sometimes there would be fights too.Such was just the way that young lions played back then.

We'd never heard the words racism,xenophobia or mysogeny back then,but whenever toy guns were around,these things seemed to surface on their own.I also find it odd how the "Good guys"were always "Americans"rather than Canadians.Sure,they were always the virtuous ones,but the way the game played out,it was not very complimentary towards Americans.

Back then,guns were just child's play.But,in thinking back,I really have to wonder about the hand that was holding the weapon.

                           TO BE CONTINUED.

Monday, 24 December 2012


It was just a cold,lifeless piece of metal,and yet I knew it had a life of it's own.It passed from one hand,to another,to another.From a WWII veteran to a collector of historical artifacts via a go between,someone who had arranged the deal.And each of these men had a different attitude about the thing.The veteran simply wanted to be rid of it,for reasons imaginable,though likely fully known only to himself.The collector was interested in it's historical significance, and the thing certainly had that in spades.The middle man had no specific feelings toward the thing,so far as I know.He was just happy to help out two friends.And the thing?It was a gun,a Luger,to be specific,WWII era,and so it certainly had a life of it's own.If only guns could talk.

It was the first time I had ever seen a real gun.I knew about them though.War movies and Cowboy and Indian movies,staples of 1960's television showed me how they were used,and what they could do.So,as a boy in grade school,I was transfixed by the gun as it lay on our kitchen table,then passed from hand to hand.A real gun within arms length.

There was one thing that I knew about the gun right there and then,that television could never have taught me,and the knowing of it was innate,instinctual.The gun demanded attention.It was a psychological entity,almost a spirit,and it's presence could never be ignored.

Folk singer Steve Earle called a pistol"The Devil's right hand."It may not be the only way to think of guns,but it's one metaphor,among many that serves to open the door of thought on the subject of guns.And it's not so much that cold piece of steel that I want you to think about,as I relay some stories about guns from my own life.It's that metaphorical gun,that psychological entity you need to keep in mind,because this is a story about guns and attitudes.Guns and attitudes!So,as you read,please keep some of your own attitudes in mind.

I am Canadian.I expect that fact will inform some of my attitudes towards fire arms,in the same way that I expect being American might inform a persons attitudes in a very different way.If you live south of the forty Ninth,I expect that your visceral experiance of weapons,is by virtue of nationality,quite different from my own.That's okay.I don't mean to criticize,I just want you to apply clean,clear thought to the subject.

Metaphorical guns tend to get attached to many different things,in the sense of connotative meaning.For instance,guns have come to be associated with some of the following concepts:Patriotism,National/Ethnic Pride,Colonialism,Pioneering,Survival,Safety,Freedom,Self Defense.Also:Outlaws,crime,gangs,rebellion and rebels,both in the personal and the political sense,and self sufficency.

Tragedy!That's the one we are all thinking about just now.And,American Exceptionalism!That once  grand and noble idea,or,at least a worthy myth.

American Exceptionalism.We'll come back,full circle to that one.

                                                                    TO BE CONTINUED.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

memoir chapter III-continued

It goes without saying, I think,that children have a limited capacity to grasp religious concepts.In looking back,it was certainly true of myself.But my mother and father both taught us what they believed were some very basic concepts that would be understandable to us.For the most part,they were,at least to some degree.But I still had questions.

One big question seemed to be taking root in my mind,more or less because of the teaching I was receiving.The question was something that was just out of my grasp when I was four,but,being instinctual to most humans,it was nevertheless there.I would not have been able to phrase the question in a meaningful way then,but I can now:If God is good,and He can do anything,why do bad things happen?

Looking back I'm surprised how young I was when that thought first presented itself in my mind.But,at age four,and having led a protected life,my understanding of evil things was very limited as well.But the idea of bad things seemed possible because of concepts like trespasses and the need to forgive.And above all else,Hell,which you could not even mention by name,and where you would burn forever in a huge fire seemed like a very bad thing.I wondered how God,who was good and could do all things could allow such a thing.

thank you Mr Singh

Shot and sweet.Who said we have to use generic references to holidays to respect one another?As I was waiting to cross 7th avenue in downtown Calgary today,a c train approached from the west.As he entered the intersection he used the trains horn to play the melody of Jingle Bells.I looked up to see a turbaned man driving the train and smiling.Thank You so much Mr.Singh.Enough said.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

memoir chapter III-continued

Heaven and Hell were not the only concepts that my father taught me.He also taught that prayer was"talking to God",and he taught us two different prayers.The first was a prayer to be said before we went to bed.It started out "Now I lay me down to sleep."Most people back then knew it,and called it the Bedtime Prayer.Back then we would say it every night.But,more recently,I've never really liked it for children because of the line that says"If I should die before I wake."I've simply grown to think that it's not good to provide children with anxiety that they don't already have.I don't recall,though that it made me anxious,but I certainly see how it could,especially if you also had a keener comphrehsion of Hell than of Heaven.

Along with the Bedtime Prayer we were taught the Lord's Prayer in it's entirity.This one part of scripture was either something he knew very well,or felt was very vital,or both,because he went through it line by line explaining what it meant."Daily bread"meant food and water."Trespasses were all the wrong things we did to others,or,all the wrong they did to us.To "forgive"meant to forget,subject,of course to certain conditions,and "evil"was something bad like sickness,or an accident,or bad people who liked to hurt or even kill others."The power and the glory was something that belonged to God,things that,translated from my father's telling meant that God could do anything.

Forgiveness was also a concept that was very meaningful to my father.When he explained the Lord's Prayer to us,he would especially stress that part of it about forgiving trespasses.How he explained the concept to me then was,again,very basic,but essentially complete.We should try never to wrong others,but at times we would,and they likewise would do wrong to us.When we hurt someone,we were called upon to be sorry for having done so,and to ask them to forgive us.And,we must also forgive anyone who had done us wrong,and who was sorry and wanted to be forgiven.The only thing that he seemed to have left out is the part about God forgiving us for wrongs we did to Him.

Monday, 17 December 2012

memoir chapter III-continued

Just because my father did not observe religious rituals,at least within our view,doesn't mean that he did not participate in our early religious upbringing.Clearly there was some understanding between him and my mother as to what religious teaching we would receive.Or,perhaps it was simply an agreement that we would receive Christian teaching without reference to it's particular belief in a denominational sense.What he would have said if my mother had chosen Mormonism or Catholicism as a religion I cannot say.

My mother was not the only one to read us Bible stories.My father would read them too,though I don't think that he ever really presented them as something that he personally believed in.

For a while,my father would tell us about God too.In those days what he told us was rather basic,limited and easy to paraphrase:God made us and gave us a soul.God lives in Heaven,which is a wonderful place.But there was another place,called Hell,where the Devil lived and there was a huge fire that never went out.If you lived a good life you went to Heaven to be with God when you died.But if you were bad,you went to Hell,where you would burn forever.

Heaven,and God I did not really understand. I was told that the church was Gods house,but I wondered why I never saw him when I went to church.As far as Heaven went,it was something I could not conceive of.I'd never seen gold or diamonds or even silver,which were the things Heaven was supposed to be made of,so there was just no reference in my mind for what Heaven was or why I would want to go there.So I endlessly asked my parents what I suppose are the normal questions about God and Heave that a small child would ask.Is Heaven far away?How long does it take to drive there?Why can't I see God?What color is God?Which house does He live in when He goes home from church?Can I go over to His house someday to play with Jesus?

Hell,on the other hand was something that frightened me.It was such a bad place that we were not even allowed to say the word for fear of going there.And while all the things of Heaven were abstract,I fully understood the concept of fire and smoke and burning,even if the idea of forever was beyond me.And,to go along with that,I understood being good as doing those things that pleased my parents,and being bad doing those things that angered them.The whole problem was,as I saw it then was that I did both good and bad things all the time.So then,where would I go when I died?A strange logic about this took root in my mind.It went something like this:Doing a lot of good things did not make one bad thing good,so it was kind of easy to get to Hell.On the other hand,I thought,maybe it was the last thing you did that most mattered.If I were to,say,eat all of my Lima beans without arguing or saying no,and were to die as a result,I would go to Heaven.But suppose I were to be hit by a car while playing on the street.Well,then I would go to Hell,because I was not allowed to play on the street.But,of course,if both my mother and I were crossing the street at a light,and I was holding her hand,we would both be bound for Heaven.

At four years old,I certainly had a lot to learn about religion and morality.But the bottom line was that I was convinced that I could never be good enough to avoid Hell.Partly that was because Hell was a lot more real in my mind than Heaven was.It was a lot like thinking of a house filled up with all kinds of beautiful things and kept nice and neat all the time,as opposed to a house that is burning down.The burning house is easier to visualize.But also,I didn't know it then,but my father left out an essential part of the picture.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

memoir chapter III-continued.

Where my father went or what he did on those Sunday mornings while we were in church I don't know.But I can say that he almost never came with us.Certainly some mornings he must have been very tired,having just got off the midnight shift and driven the eighty miles home.But I don't really know why,on those Sundays he wasn't working,he chose not to go to the church and worship with his family.It caused me to wonder from an early age what he thought about God,and why what he thought seemed outwardly so very different from what my mother thought.In fact,my father's beliefs remain largely a mystery to me,to this day,simply because so little in the way of belief was openly stated.And yet I'm certain he had beliefs.

My fathers religious behaviour also caused me some puzzlement when it came to my mother and her beliefs.If to her God and Jesus and being a Christian were so important,why had she married someone who,I could tell even then,did not seem to agree with her on matters of religion?I could hardly have put voice to this as a four year old,and yet there was something really unsettling about it.It was not nearly the same thing as disagreeing about painting the outside of the house blue as opposed to yellow,and I knew that even as a kid.Religion,what you believed about God was important in governing what sort of things you did,and who you would become.That's the message I got from one corner,while from the other corner ,I sensed that it didn't matter so much.

None of this is to say that my father was an unbeliever.Neither does it mean that my mother did not lead an exemplary Christian life.But interpreting how anyone believes is,by the nature of belief and how it is lived out,a very difficult if not impossible task.That may not be true where belief is openly and consistently stated,but such was not the case in our home.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

op/ed-slaughter of the innocents.

We are all familiar with the Christmas Story,right?You know,the one fromThe Second Chapter Of Luke.The one that begins with Caesar Augustus declaring that all the World should be taxed,then proceeding to reveal the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.Even if you are just a nominal Christian,or perhaps not a Christian at all,you could likely repeat that story from memory,right?

The problem with the Christmas Story is that it is just too trite.Don't misunderstand me,it's not trite coming from the mouth of God.In that way it carries all the weight that it ever did.The problem is that,because we've chosen to live in a certain type of society,with certain values of our own construction,the story doesn't quite ring true.You see,every year it seems,there are things added to this story that really don't belong there.Things like planes being blown up and children being shot.So the Christmas Story can seem to make so little sense at times.

But if we follow the story beyond the birth of Christ,beyond the shepherds in the field,and beyond the Magi,we can see that the story doesn't have a happy ending.Actually the happily ever after part of this story has just been somewhat delayed,but no matter,the Christmas story has a rather gruesome ending.It's called The Slaughter Of The Innocents,though a lot of people prefer not to read that far.It rather ruins your appetite for turkey and plum pudding,you see.

Let me briefly summarize The Slaughter Of The Innocents.When King Herod heard of the birth of Christ,he intended to kill Him.So,he demanded that the Magi tell him where the Christ Child was.The Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod,and when Herod found out that they had fooled him,being the narcissistic megalomaniac that he was,he demanded that all male children under two years of age in and around Bethlehem be put to death.To make a long story short,for want of murdering one specific child,Herod murdered many children.And it was all driven by the fact that Herod only recognized one god.Himself.

Yesterday morning,just when the tragic news in Connecticut was breaking,one of the first images that surfaced on my Facebook page was of Lady Liberty covering her eyes with her hands and asking,"What has this country come to?"Actually,any study of the recent history of America,and of the recent philosophies of it's people makes manifest even to the relatively uneducated what this country has come to.The question is,what are we going to do about it?

I think it's time to do some collective soul searching.We need to ask some very hard questions.In fact,let's make it just one really hard question.And I know I will offend some by asking it this way,but I'm not going to back away from it.Are all of the Godless beliefs that  our finest thinkers have developed over the past century and a half, serving us well?Are we to settle for the status quo as being the voice of orthodoxy?Here is the really hard question:Have we constructed our world in such a way that we've ended up engaging in our own slaughter of the innocents for the sake of removing a particular child from our moral thinking?Have we not become Herod,collectively,complete with all of his megalomania?

The school room of just forty years ago was different than it is today.You could speak the Name Of God out loud,read the Bible,be taught the Ten Commandments and The Golden Rule.You learned about Christian gratitude,and to respect others as having been made in God's image.We had a Christmas concert each year,not a winter celebration.We even began each day with a prayer.God still mattered.But somewhere along the line He got replaced with the idea that we should never offend anyone.He,God that is had His name changed to Political Correctness.And for at least the last quarter century,that is the only god that is allowed access to the school house.Is that serving us well?

Can we all set aside some significant religious differences long enough to admit that our children being gunned down in school is an affront to all creatures who are made in the image of God?Because there are hardly any,Christian,Muslim,Jew,Sikh,that don't grieve when something like this happens.And I refuse to accept that, if you don't believe in God that you are not overcome by cognitive dissonance in the face of such an event.

The reality is that we were made in God's image.That is a really big concept.I'm not certain as to what all that implies,but I am convinced that it's a line of thought worth thinking about.In part,what it seems to mean is that we have some of the attributes of God,that we are capable of responding to Him.Not only are we capable,but if we do not respond to Him,as a matter of choice,we are characteristically unhealthy,both as individuals and as societies.

Over the past two hundred or so years we've come to believe many things that contradict the idea that we were made in God's image.The contradiction in most cases is rather obvious.It's really not difficult to see,as I name these philosophies one by one,how they lead us down a path to putting ever less value on human life.An irreverent attitude toward our fellow humans has it's roots as an irreverent attitude toward God,a belief that He is somehow no longer relevant to us.

Darwinism teaches us that we've evolved from nothing,for no discernible reason,and without Holy guidance.We are,we are told,sophisticated apes.Secular Humanism and Atheistic Humanism tell us that man is the measure,that we have the answer to all of our own problems.Subjective Morality tells us that there is no real morality,no social contract with other human beings.And political correctness declaws the cat by making the greatest wrong offending others.Each of these thought systems is is a rationalization for denying that we are all children of God.Is there any wonder that there is no peace on Earth?

Examining ourselves is never easy.It wasn't intended to be.But let me ask,what are we going to do about all of these acts of unspeakable hatred?First,recognize what is happening here.Recognize that guns,drugs,or any other thing you want to blame is not the problem.The problem is in the hearts of men,just as it has always been.

We need to start making connections here.We need to see our way through to being able to draw the conclusions that we can draw by virtue of being made in God's image.We have no trouble knowing that the physical health of our children is affected by obesity.Why,then do we miss the fact that their spiritual health is affected the absence of spiritual nutrition?

It's time we had prayer in school again.The Lord tells us to be continually in prayer.I've tried it and it works.Years ago,when I was having panic attacks I was taught that the behavior of deep breathing is inconsistent with panic.In the same manner,I discovered,prayer is inconsistent with wanting to harm others.The prayer circles were formed so fast on the social media sites yesterday,so it would seem to be an indigenous concept to a lot of humans.But what shocked me is the sudden realization that nobody seemed to be praying for the children before this tragedy happened.Prayer in School?Its time to give the issue serious debate again,starting now.

Another thing we need to do is free our children from the present bondage placed upon them.We need to evaluate those godless ideas that have become the voice of orthodox belief in our society.We need to give our children permission to seek God while respecting that others have different beliefs.We need to realize that even if we choose to live a life of religious and moral non-belief or even ignorance,we must not dogmatically commit our children to the same beliefs.If they wish to try to rise above those things,they should be free to do so with our blessings.It all comes down to teaching them how to think,not what to think.Teach them how to honestly evaluate Darwinism,Humanism,Political Correctness,Atheism Nhilism and Subjective Morality.Teach them to do the same with Theism,Christianity,The Golden Rule,The Ten Commandments and all those things we used to believe.

We've lived as godless creatures for decades now,because we've been told we should.But have we forgotten that it is not the only way to live?If we choose not to see our innocents slaughtered,are there some things that we need to unlearn?Isn't it time to give up on our collective megalomania as represented by our current thought systems?Because really,Godless morality can be,and must be made obsolete.

Friday, 14 December 2012

some of my favorite christmas music.

memoir writers homework-regrets.

Regrets?Yes,I guess I've had more than my share,but,from a philosophical point of view,I don't know if I would go back and change a lot of things.The thing about changing things is that you would have to change everything about them,though many times the bad things come with unintended consequences that are good.

I wish I'd known a bit more about social justice issues and standing up for right principles the year I was in grade eight.You see,there was a lot going on that year in our city.It was the year the two policemen were murdered,then,at the end of the school year a little girl went missing and was never seen again.It was also the year I had Malcom Ross as a History teacher and came to know that people in our community had political views that could be extreme and grew out of that time and it's events.That year would have been an especially fertile time for moral instruction and learning.But,a person can only grasp so much at one time.

Teachers were to be respected and obeyed.There was no more to be said about it than that.And,to that end I tried to do my best.

The Science teacher was a young,thin blond woman who often dressed in sweat pants and a t-shirt that said"UCLA."I wondered if she really went to UCLA,because I never knew of anyplace you could buy such t-shirts in our town back then.After all,what was wrong with UNB or Mount Allison or Acadia?She would sometimes pose a sort of a pop quiz on the subject matter she was teaching,asking those she called upon to provide oral answers.I had no real problem with this.Most of the time I'd done my homework and never ran afoul of her.The same cannot be said of every student in that class.

One Friday morning,the teacher was conducting her inquisition and called upon a girl who had no idea what to say in response to the teachers question.She couldn't have done the required reading and she just sat there looking like a deer in the headlights.The teacher demanded that she stand up and face the class,then she posed the same question again.When the girl meekly replied that she did not know the answer,the teacher said"there is no excuse for you to not know the answer.You are Stupid."She told the girl,who now looked about to cry,that she would be called upon again on Monday,and that if she didn't have the answer,she would be in trouble.

Monday came,and I think we all knew what was coming.Eventually the teacher called upon this girl again.I can still see the girl,though I don't recall her name.She was a pretty girl,who in my mind looked like a younger version of the science teacher,though perhaps a bit heavier.I never really knew the girl that well.

Again this girl,for whatever reason had no answer for the teachers question.To me,she looked scared half to death.And of course,the teacher responded in the same way as on he Friday before.She stood the girl up at the front of the class and proceeded to brow beat her for what seemed like half the morning,before calling her stupid again and telling her to get out of her class and not to bother coming back until she saw the principal.

The girl opened the door and left.And that is the nature of my regret.I knew that teachers were to be respected.But what I didn't know was that to be respected,you have to be respectable.What I became aware of later was that when a teacher regards a student as stupid,learning usually stops right there.I should have left the classroom too that morning.I should have done the right thing,in support of my classmate,who deserved better than she got that day.I should have got up and walked out and taken as many people with me as I could.But you simply didn't do such things then.Still.I've always wanted to apologize to that girl for not standing with her back then.

memoir writers homework-a funeral.

Outside,the day was a perfect spring day,the kind that would count as one of a handful of very best days ever.It was the middle of May,cloudless,and neither hot nor cold,but warm,with a slight,fresh breeze.Enough of a breeze to blow away most of the coal smoke that sometimes lingered over Springhill.The trees were newly green and everything was in bloom.

Browns Funeral Home was located on the hill,off Main Street.Like the rest of Springhill,it looked a little less than prosperous.We entered what I would call a large parlor.I certainly wasn't a church.I don't recall seeing any Bibles or songbooks or crosses.There were benches of some sort,but they certainly weren't pews.The casket was at the front of the parlor,not in the center,but to the right as you faced the front.It was open,and inside was the first dead person I'd ever seen.He was dressed in a suit,better than the old gray trousers,gray tweed coat,gray hat and white shirt I'd always remembered him to wear when he was among the living.On that day he looked like a gentleman of some means.There was a flower of some sort,a carnation perhaps fixed to his left lapel.Were you supposed to touch the dead,I wondered.I could,I suppose,touch his hand.I wondered what it would feel like,and I wondered too,if anyone would take offense.

There might have been singing,and most likely a eulogy spoken by someone,though I really don't recall them.As far as I know,my grandfather never graced the inside of a church,so maybe there were no hymns,and ,if there were I'm sure they seemed out of place.All that I can really recall was my father explaining to me that the white flower on my grandfathers lapel had been placed there collectively by his grandchildren,and I recall one of my older cousins crying hysterically behind me,so that she was led away into a private room for a while.

My grandfather died in 1974.I'd last seen him at my Uncle Bill's place about a month before.He had just returned from Albert and everyone remarked how well he looked.I didn't think so.I thought he looked tired.Then he moved into a rooming house in Springhill,where,one night he fell on the stairs and broke a hip.A few days later his heart stopped.At the time of his death,he was an enigma to me.There was so much about the man I didn't understand,and still don't.What I was really wondering about on that day was Heaven and Hell,and where my grandfather had gone,were all that I was told about such places true.

There was a reception later ,at my grandmothers flat,down in the low part of Springhill,close to where the mines used to be.All I recall was that there was a lot of food and a lot of people coming and going all day.And outside,it was the most perfect of days.

Monday, 10 December 2012

the kananaskis traveler: op/ed-the strange silence of charlene eve davis.

the kananaskis traveler: op/ed-the strange silence of charlene eve davis.: Perhaps you think of this blog as a place to come and read a personal memoir.That is fine-thanks for your interest.Maybe you enjoy a virtua...


For a short time I had a career working with persons who have disabilities.But,in the end,that line of work seemed ill suited to me,and just as likely me for it.Because of differences in ideology with the powers that be,I eventually decided to follow a different career path.For my part,I,having recently left school with a head full of ideals ran full speed ahead into administrators who seemed concerned only with the practical aspects of getting the job done and had very little time for ideals.I found them stodgy and conservative,and,in all likelihood they may well have viewed me as liberal and perhaps too progressive.

When it comes to being labeled liberal,I'll say right off,I make no apologies for my politics,which  has as it's cornerstones egalitarianism and social justice.I've always believed,and still do that what I needed to be doing was moving the cause of disabled persons forward,not participating in a system that tries to maintain an often questionable status quo.So,let me just say,as far as disability issues are concerned,they are a big issue for friends that I admire,respect and love.Therefor,I have not fallen off the edge of the earth,but remain interested,informed and engaged.In the coming months,expect to see a number of op/ed entries on these issues on this blog.

To that end,I want to start out by asking a number of  questions about a hypothetical situation involving a wide range of hypothetical people.You should not view this situation as real,nor is it the only situation that could be presented involving my questions.The questions,broadly stated involve what sort of information,how much of it,and to whom it should be made available under what circumstances.Let me illustrate by presentin a brief case study,again,hypothetical.What I want you to focus on is largely a question of who has a responsibility to whom,in terms of quality control.

Case Study-Tom has been caring for his aged father,who has had dementia for over a decade.Tom is also a career caregiver,working in a residential setting for an agency,one of two that provide such services in the small city where he lives.

Tom's father also has other children,who are concerned about his well being.However,they live in distance cities.For a number of years,all goes well.But more recently Tom's siblings have come to have an increasing level of concern for the level of care being provided to their father.While at one time Tom was freely speaking to concerns raised by his siblings,more recently he has been withholding information,and not answering directly posed questions.In response to reasonable questions,he often seems defensive and on one occasion,belligerent.A request by one of his siblings to see documentation,appropriate to the care giving trades is met with absolute refusal.Now,eventually Tom's father passes away,not unexpectedly given his poor health.Still,Tom has not assured his siblings that quality of care has been delivered,and since his father is deceased,it is no longer an issue for state agencies to deal with.The issue remains unresolved for a number of months,and in fact is still ongoing.

Now,my concern in this hypothetical mess is,who should be saying what,and to whom.I have my own ideas about this situation,but for the moment I'll let the questions remain rhetorical and save the opinion for another time.

Here are the questions:1.Does the agency for which Tom works have a vested interest in seeing a resolution to this ongoing problem?

2.Do Tom's siblings have a right to use Tom's employer as a court of public opinion in resolving their concerns?Can that right,in fact be stated as a responsibility,and,if so to whom?

3.How should the public view an agency,once informed that they have an employee who refuses to provide documentation of care in a situation not directly related to their job,that does not take issue with that employee?

4.Do consumers of care deserve to know about this situation in the interests of informed consent?If so,who should be providing the buyer beware information to them?Is informed consent violated if they do not know?

As I say,these are just some of the questions that come to mind.While I have some opinions on this matter,for the moment I will defer stating those opinions.For the moment,I simply ask readers to consider the questions,be aware that they are being asked,and ask some questions of their own in regards to these issues.Because,at some point these issues may well visit you where you live.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

op/ed-drinking and driving.

Tis the season as they say.And once again,police are out there dealing with one of the less pleasant aspects of the Christmas Season.Drinking and driving.Because every year,no matter what the law is,no matter how often they are urged to take a cab,and no matter how many tragedies occur,some people either don't get it or simply don't care.So every year in December,police operate roadside checkstops to round up those people.But sometime I wonder,what is the point?Are they wasting their time and my tax dollars sending these clowns off to court?

If a recent court case in Edmonton,Alberta is any indication,there really isn't much point.Because what is the point in handing over an offender.when all the courts can manage to come up with is a two year jail sentence for someone convicted of impaired driving for the fifteenth time?An offender who has a similar number of convictions for driving while suspended?The judge in the case notes that this person"isn't a career criminal."Excuse me?Does this brilliant jurist also think the Pope isn't Catholic and that Israel isn't Jewish?If a two year sentence for this offender cannot be explained by a judge's unbelievable stupidity and ignorance,then it must be explained by laws that are poorly conceived and/or not properly applied.

Would someone out there please explain something to me?Maybe there is a Canadian lawyer out there that can edify me as to what I'm missing?You see,I was under the distinct impression that the Criminal Code Of Canada contained a provision for dealing with dangerous offenders.I was under the impression that they could be jailed indefinitely. Was I wrong?And if I am not wrong,why isn't this legislation being applied to offenders who will not engage in treatment,have zero concern for others and continue to offend in spite of all reasonable efforts to deal with their deviance?

My understanding is that dangerous offenders are normally held to be those with an aggravated and repeated pattern of criminality involving sexual offenses or serious assaults up to and including murder.But why is an offender being convicted of a fifteenth impaired driving charge any less dangerous?He's not!It's only a matter of time and chance.Clearly this man has socio-pathic tendencies as evidenced by behavior.If dangerous offender legislation cannot be directed toward offenders of this nature,then why do we have it.Oh,I see,nobody has been killed.Yet.That must be what we are waiting for.What a cowardly,spineless cop out.Dangerous offender hearings should be mandatory if an offender has any more than three convictions for drunk driving.Release can then be made contingent upon treatment and not on the expiry of a warrant at the end of some arbitrarily imposed sentence.

And,while we are at it,maybe we could think about making judges and prosecutors accountable to the electorate.Do you suppose that might make them a bit more sensitive to public outrage?Just a thought.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Happy Holidays??

Jews and Muslims are not the problem.They have their own religious beliefs and traditions,often very different from my own,but they,for the most part get a very fundamental truth that the so called progressive thinking,politically correct anti-religionists miss.That is,that I,like a good many people am a Christian and that I celebrate Christmas.And for the most part,Muslims and Jews have no problem with that.They are more than happy to greet me by saying "Merry Christmas."

So why do the anti-religious continue to insist that the word "Christmas"cannot help offending anyone who is not of the Christian faith?Believe me,as my Jewish and Muslim friends do,that this is not my intent.And if you happen to be anti-religious,get used to it,because I intend to go on using this obnoxious word,as offensive as it may be to you,for as long as I draw breath.It's time you took ownership of what offends you instead of passing it off to others.

It was explained to me last week why the term"Happy Holidays"was more appropriate than"Merry Christmas"The word"Holiday",by terms of this explanation,should be rendered "Holy Day."Seems reasonable to me,and I will accept that logic as far as it goes,but my particular holiday,or Holy Day,if you prefer has a name which indicates the purpose of it's observance.Could it be that part of the word that is what really offends you?Just wondering.Again,nobody would mind if you took ownership of your ideology.Because you insist that by saying "Happy Holidays"or "Seasons Greetings",you are being inclusive and inoffensive.But is that true?Really?

You see,here is the problem that I have.Christians,Jews,and indeed all religious persons have observances and traditions associated with their particular belief.And as much as anti-religionists want to deny the fact,so do they.I'm not exactly certain of what it is every anti-religionist believes,but I am certain that they have raised atheism and agnosticism to the status of religion.And that religion is an especially intolerant one,though it rides on a wave of political correctness.

As a Christian,I have no problem with wishing  Jewish people Happy Hanukkah.To me it is a simple matter of civility.The two holidays occur in the same season,so perhaps Seasons Greetings would suffice,but that is to deny the real significance of a particular observance.And,moreover,it is appropriate for another reason.When we talk of Christian values,what we really mean is Judeo-Christian values.Christianity developed through God's promise to Abraham and is revealed throughout the totality of Jewish History.It's purpose,and Christ's identity was revealed through Jewish Prophets,so that on that first Christmas Morning,He would be recognizable to all mankind.Further,Christs apostles clearly understood His teachings in a uniquely Jewish context.So,while we celebrate different holidays,if you are Jewish,let me wish you a very Happy Hanukkah.

Now,as to you anti-religionists,if I knew what you celebrated in your expression of your lack of faith,I would also happily extend appropriate greetings.I don't want to say "Seasons Greeting"as that would be denial of the reasons for your celebration,but,as to what you believe,I must confess ignorance.Perhaps we could invent a holiday so that you don't feel so left out at what must seem to you to be a rather gloomy time of year,given the lack of a belief in God.Maybe we could deify Charles Darwins birthday,or perhaps call it Richard Dawkins Day.Or perhaps celebrating the Slaughter Of The Innocents would be appropriate,seeing the effort that seems to be directed at doing that covertly anyway.And,of course,there would be a need for some appropriate traditions such as maybe making gingerbread monkeys,fish and dinosaurs,or hanging variously evolved monkeys on some sort of a tree,or perhaps reading passages from Bertrand Russell as opposed to Dylan Thomas.Of course you would likely want some classic seasonal films as well.The one on The Scopes Monkey Trial comes immediately to mind,but "It's A Wonderful Life "would likely have to end on a somewhat different note.Or maybe a film called "Yes Virginia,There is a Bonobo/Neanderthal/Human."

In the meantime,that tree I bring into the house is not an Xmas tree,or a holiday tree.It's a Christmas tree.I'm not bringing it into the house to celebrate a winter holiday or a seasonal holiday.I'm bringing it in to celebrate Christmas.The star and the angel at the top of that tree have Christian meaning,as does the nativity scene and the wise men and the manger.And my celebration of Christmas is in no way intended to insult people of other belief systems.In fact,Happy Chuck Darwin Day.Now would you please run along while I celebrate my particular holiday in the manner it was intended to be celebrated.

essay-coyotes in calgary-part III

One day in mid September I was out taking pictures of industrial buildings near the Ogden rail yards.I thought I would cut across the yards from Sixty-First Avenue and Barlow in a fairly direct fashion and end up at Ogden road and Sixty-Ninth.But the route turned out to skirt the entire yard,taking me far to the south along a series of fences.

Nearly half way around,on the far south end of the rail yard,I came across the coyote.This poor creature was anything but a ruthless killer,and,in the interests of good taste I did not even bother to photograph it,the sight being simply too distressing.

If I had wanted, I could have walked right up to this animal even thought of doing just that.This coyote was a juvenile,perhaps from the most recent litter,which would have made it five to six months old.But it was impossibly thin,looking something like broom sticks fused together with a few tufts of hair.All of it's body was covered in open sores,and huge patches of it's fur were gone.One very large,bloody sore encircled the base of it's tail.This young coyote was in the process of starvation,despite ample food supplies.It could be that it had incurred some injury,or perhaps it was abandoned by it's mother before it learned how to hunt,which would mean that it had been suffering for a number of weeks,if not months.

When I first caught sight of this creature,it was half sitting,half laying about four feet out from a chain link fence.It was a long time,it seemed before it became aware of my presence.I was only about eight feet away when it tried to get up and run away.Only it couldn't run away.Instead,it half crept and half staggered until it bumped into the fence.The fence seemed to surprise it,just as much as I had.

The coyote turned at the shoulders and looked at me.It was a look I will never forget.Not a stare.Not a passing glance.It was a look of no real interest.Not a curious look,or a vigilant look.It could have only been saying one thing."I know you are going to kill me,but there is nothing I can do about it."And he fixed that look on me and waited.I passed the haunted looking animal,and it's eyes tracked me,but it's countenance never changed.That visual tracking seemed to take all the energy the animal had.I opted for an anonymous call to a wildlife rescue agency,with the hope that this creature could be painlessly euthanized.But had I had a gun or a tire iron,I might well have elected to end it's suffering without further delay.

Coyotes are often reviled.They are hunted down and shot,trapped and even dismembered by dogs.They are poisoned,and struck by cars,likely the biggest threat to their safety..Some of them starve,and they can be killed by other alpha predators such as bears or mountain lions or even wolves.

We even choose to stereotype coyotes as stupid,as in the Roadrunner cartoons,which for as long as I can remember show a creature that,while resourceful,sees that resourcefulness come to no end.The reality could hardly be more different.Coyotes,as a species are very successful.They have not only survived the encroachment of humans into their territory,they have seemed to find new ways to prosper by it.Calgary is no different from many cities in that respect,as it continues to experience rapid growth.Even so,coyotes are hardly being pushed back.It seems unlikely that we will be living in a world without them anytime soon.There will likely continue to be conflicts with our coyote neighbors.But I wonder if we might come to think of them differently.We could likely hunt them into extinction,but should we?

It seems more likely that we will need to find better ways of living with coyotes.We will need to better understand how to avoid conflict with coyotes and consistently employ the strategys we already know to keep ourselves safe when coyotes are near.Stop feeding them.As with bears,also a big problem here in parts of Western Canada,we need to take care to dispose carefully and securely of garbage.Leaving pet food outside is one of the biggest problems.And it goes without saying that pets and children need to be closely monitored when outside.Without practicing needless cruelty, we need to make certain that encounters with humans are not a positive experience of the coyote.We may be too late already on that front and it may be the best that we can do to assure that no food is available to them when they enter our yards and neighborhoods.

The bottom line with coyotes is that they are wild creatures.They need to be kept that way.I have encountered them many times without conflict,and in truth,I enjoy having them around.Each experience has taught me something.But we are better off,both myself and coyotes, when those meetings are fleeting in nature,when they understand me as a potential threat to be avoided,and I understand them as a wild creature to be enjoyed and respected for what they are.

Resources:"Myths&Truths About Coyotes.What You Need To Know About Americas Most Misunderstood Predator."-Carol Cartaino.

                  Music Video.Ian Tyson-The Coyote and The Cowboy.

Friday, 7 December 2012

essay-coyotes in calgary-part II

Back up on the North Hill,as in other parts of Calgary,there are coyotes too.In fact,the one I saw creeping through the snow on Prince's Island had most likely wandered down from McHugh Bluff,the escarpment that leads up from the north bank of the Bow River.

The North Hill can be roughly defined as that part of town bordered on the south by the Bow River,on the west by Fourteenth Street,and on the east by a broad valley through which the Deerfoot Trail,Calgary's busiest road runs.The Deerfoot is bordered on the west by green space and the main set of railroad connecting Calgary with points north.The North Hill also has several sizable golf courses,cemeteries and parks.Nose Hill Park just to the north west ,while to the northeast is Calgary's International Airport.In short,the communities of the North Hill are more than accommodating to coyotes.

It's up on the North Hill that I would always see the signs.The signs were usuall made with a color printer and would be taped up to every pole and bus shelter for blocks around.Usually they were entitled"Lost Dog"or "Lost Cat",and would have a picture of the animal,usually a smaller breed,along with a description.Sometimes there would be more than one picture on each pole.

It would be good to believe that those beloved pets had just wandered of,but,in most cases,I fear that it would not be true.Nature,after all is said to be red in tooth and claw and ,over the years I've lived on the North Hill,I've seen several coyotes within a stones throw from residential areas.The unfortunate truth,most of the time is that those pets have become a commodity in the food chain.

Some people feed coyotes.Not all feeding is intentional,but all feeding encourages coyotes to view people,and the animals that are associated with people as a food source.Sometimes it's a matter of leaving pet food out in the yard for pets.But pet food is very attractive to coyotes as well,and increases the chance of pet/coyote conflict,which most pets will not survive.Coyotes can inflict serious,life threatening harm even to larger pets.Sometimes it's the careless disposal of garbage that attracts coyotes.Cans are not covered or bags are not tied at the top and this qualifies as fine,easy to access cuisine for a hungry coyote.I once awoke to  see a coyote dragging an empty pizza box down the alley,having already consumed whatever contents were left in the box.

There are coyotes  on the golf courses,wandering through the graveyards and even at the airport as well.While these may seem unusual places to find a coyote,they are in fact rather isolated from humans and still provide a lot in terms of food.Certainly at and around Calgary's airport there are abundant colonies of gophers and rabbits.While a coyote may well encounter planes at the airport,they seem to adapt quickly to that danger,while the very nature of an airport dictates that they find little in the way of human harassment.A good friend of mine is a licensed pilot and has landed at Calgary International.On more than one occasion he has told me he has seen coyotes on or near the runways.Having them around though is a good thing,according to him,as they cut down on the population of sometimes troublesome birds.It seems,then that the relationship between man and coyotes can be symbiotic at times.

The last thing a plane passes when it approaches Calgary International from the south is a golf course.I've often seen and heard coyotes from afar as I've walked up McKnight Boulevard,which divides the airport from the golf course,on my way to work in the early mornings.The golf course,very much like the airport can keep coyotes somewhat isolated,especially during the long Canadian winters,while still providing water and food,mostly in the form of a healthy population of rabbits.During the summer months human/coyote encounters can,and do take place on the golf course.I recall a friend of mine saying that he placed his ball on the green with his approach shot,only to have a coyote run up and carry it off,thinking perhaps that it was some sort of egg.Earlier this year,I was working at a new golf course,constructing bunkers.At this particular course they had consulted a wildlife expert who had come out,found,identified and cataloged several coyote dens,so that they could be avoided,and,if necessary relocated.

My next encounter with a coyote was to be a very close, but very brief  one.It happened on a winter's morning in early 2009,along McKnight Boulevard just east of the airport.

 The weather was especially bad on that morning.While is was not really all that cold,it was snowing some and there was ice fog in the air as well. The ceiling at the airport was very low and visibility at street level was less than half a block.It gave me the feeling that I was walking about in an envelope of vapors.The chill in my bones might have been from the air,or it might have been the ghostly atmosphere created by the snow and fog,combined with the fact that my eyes always seem to play tricks on me when I'm walking anyplace close to the airport at night or in the early morning.

After I pass nineteenth street,it was my custom to finish up the last leg of my trip to work by  heading across country,through the corner of a light industrial park.There is a sign there that flashes the time,and,just to the west,a chain link fence.At the the sign,I start up a small berm that leads through the parking lot of a cellular phone company's building.

Just as I passed the fence and was about to make my turn from due east to southeast,the coyote appeared,dead ahead and only a few feet in front of me.

This was not a thin,hungry looking coyote at all.It was not huge,but long and well filled out,with a thick coat and not a hint of mange.It's fur was grizzled with frost,so that it appeared to be made of the winter and it's elements.It's gait was not quite a run,but a smooth,comfortable and confident trot.It's head was cocked slightly toward me,and it's forepaws slightly out of line with its hind feet,giving it the appearance of walking slightly crooked.That walk,along with it's habit of looking back over it's shoulder is what  gives the coyote a sneaky look.But all of the dog tracking and off center body mechanics did nothing to slow this animal down.It gave every indication that it knew exactly where it was going.This was an adult,well fed and in it's prime,very possibly an alpha male or female.If it knew of my presence,and it must have,it gave no indication.In less than a few seconds,it was gone having never broken stride.

I'd always though of coyotes as being a western creature,but that's not exactly true.Old Western movies can stereotype more than just people.The typical image of coyotes are of a creature that sits beside a cactus howling at a full moon.I fact,they inhabit most regions of North America.But,for all the years that I had lived in the east,I'd never seen a coyote or heard of any being around.

In 2009,I visited my home town of Moncton,New Brunswick.Just to the north of Moncton,near the community of Clairville my sisters friends have a large acreage,and there were certainly coyotes there.You simply could not escape their nocturnal singing.While walking along the road in front of the house,I could hear them,and I was certain they were less than a hundred feet away.Yet I had no hope of seeing them in the dark.We awoke next morning to find that they had spent some of the night chasing the horses in the field.The horses are large enough to inflict injury on a coyote,unless one is sick or injured,so they are not really prey.Still,one of the horses had sustained a minor injury.

Coyotes in the east are said to run in packs and ,from the sound of them,that would seem to be true.People also say they are more aggressive than their western counterparts,and,that's because they are believed to have interbred with wolves.On the whole,I cannot say if that is true,but,also while I was back east,an incident took place which would indicate they are indeed aggressive.

While hiking in Cape Breton,a young folk singer from Toronto was attacked by a pack of coyotes and died from her injuries.I'm told she is only the second documented case of coyotes killing people.In the west there seem to be concerns of coyotes carrying off small children.There have been attacks from time to time,and while caution is likely warranted when it comes to children,I believe the danger of being attacked is likely low,based on my own encounters.People back east certainly worry about them though,and perhaps with good reason.

Rightly or wrongly,coyotes have a reputation.They are not really all that far removed from the Big Bad Wolf and all of the connotations that that carries.They may be an efficient cold blooded predator,cunning and resourceful,but they are hardly evil.Everything must eat.Of all of my encounters with coyotes,one of my more recent was very different from all of the others.It happened on an early fall day just a few months ago.

                                                                To Be Continued.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

memoir chapter III-continued.

Sometime shortly after we moved to Moncton,we began going to church.Church was a much bigger deal on the mid 1960's than it is today and a great deal more people attended.Town was generally shut down on Sunday as well,though the may have been one or two corner stores still open.

The churches at thsat time were the tallest,most imposing buildings in town,even more imposing than City Hall,as I suppose church ought to be.Downtown,at the corner of Queen and Church Streets,there was a church on each corner,and they were made from stone and looked very old.There was something vaguely scary about huge,old buildings like that.

My mother began to attend Mountain View United Church,at the corner of Connaught and McBeth,and from an early time she would take us along.While she would attend worship services in the church sanctuary we would go to Sunday School in the basement.At the time,I remember,my sister was still in the churches nursery in the corner of the basement.While adult family members heard sermons we were taught the same Bible stories by teachers that our mother read to us before bed at home.

Mountain View United Church was very much unlike the other churches around Moncton,at least in appearance.It had neither steeple nor bell,and,in fact did not reach very high into the sky at all,and did not seem to cast much of a shadow.I often wondered if our church didn't have a my mother ever knew when it was time to go to church.I guess she would have been slightly embarrassed to admit that her reference in such matters was likely the bell from the Catholic Church.

Mountain View United was not built of stones.Instead,it was a 1960's style modern building of glass and brick and wood.I guess,at the time it was a new concept in church building and it fit right in with the surrounding neighborhood,which featured a profusion of expansive brick houses.The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also had a brick building on the same street,and the Moncton Hospital was a bit farther down the road as well.To me,it was a wonder that,after having constructed the surrounding area,there were any bricks left at all.When my mother or a Sunday School teacher would tell the story of the Children Of Israel being forced to make bricks in Egypt,my mind visualized those bricks going to build all those stylish,upper middle class houses all about our church,rather than pyramids.But our church fit right in with the neighborhood.

Often we would drive to church,but sometimes we would walk,in the spring or fall.It was quite some distance to the church,and there really wasn't all that much to see on the way,so the walk bored me.We would walk down to the end of our own street,then down Mountain Road towards downtown.We passed Mapleton School,then Beaverbrook School right next to Mapleton.Mapleton was a French school and it was made of wood and painted white,so as to almost look more like a church than a school.Beaverbrook was made of,you guessed it,brick.We would pass a store where the Green Gables now stands,but there was not a lot along that streach back then.The Shell carwash and the Mc Donalds were not yet built,though the Fairlanes Bowling Alley was there and there was a gas station on the corner of Killiam and Mountain Road.It was called BA.When we walked to church,that is where we crossed Mountain Road,and it never varied.Sometime I would wonder why we could not walk down the other side of Mountain Road,but we never did.

Just before we got to the church we would pass a business in an old house that sharpened knives and skates and the like.There was also a very strange looking house about two blocks before the church.It was a modern style house,a bungalow,but kind of bent in the middle and it had a wrap around balcony around part of it's upper story.I always though of it as being like a boat.It was a very unique house,and,as it turned out,I was later to find out that the people who lived there were Muslim.I always wondered what it would be like to live in that boat house.

What I know of our church,what I've been told as a child,was that it started out as a tent.I always thought it odd that people would go to church in a tent,and I wondered what it would be like.To my mind a tent was a very small place where,even then I could hardly stand up without touching the roofI truly wondered how my sister and my mother and myself,as well as the minister and all the ushers and Sunday School Teachers and the choir and all of the other people would have ever managed to have church in a tent.The first time you jumped up to shout amen or Halleujah,the whole church would be torn apart,and of course,if it happened to be raining everyone would end up getting baptized.As it turned out,the good folks at Mountain View United seemed to have an aversion to much shouting which was likely just as well.I suppose,though,they likely had erected a much larger tent,something like a circus tent perhaps.

I wondered too why our church was called "Mountain View"And I never did discover the answer.I could,I suppose be a reference to jerusalem,in the sense of The New Jerusalem,or perhaps a reference to Calvary.Or,if you looked far off on the horizon,there was what I suppose you could call a mountain,though it was really just a hill.

And so,at roughly the age of four,church became part of my life and I would continue to attend for decade or more until one day I decided that what I really was was an atheist.When I woke up from my athiest inspired sleep decades later,I opened a Bible to a random page and began reading what turned out to be Psalm 121-"I look unto the mountains,where does my help come from?...

essay-coyotes in calgary

 Princes Island Park is located in the Bow River,between downtown Calgary and the city's North Hill.It is covered with tall trees and crossed by a number of walking trails.In the middle part of the island there is a fashionable,upscale restaurant called The River Cafe,and at the islands west end,there is a large pavilion that plays host to a large folk music festival each summer.Not only is Princes Island a popular recreation destination,but it is traversed daily by hundreds of commuters who travel or bicycle to work.

The eastern tip of Princes Island Park is somewhat less traveled and much less developed.It includes a constructed urban wetland consisting of ponds that are home to large flocks of ducks and geese.Only a stone's throw away is Chinatown,Eau Claire,with it's trendy condos,and the office towers of Downtown.But this small patch of land can seem incredibly far from Downtown,though there is not much more than a narrow river channel in between.

Early on the morning of November 21,2012,I was attracted to this spot by a new fall of snow,thinking that it would be a good opportunity to collect some photographs for this blog.The trees,ponds and river were quite dramatic clothed as they were in winter white,while on the nearby pathways,commuters passed like specters.It was a lovely but frosty and very cold morning.

Then,as I walked eastward among the many sets of tracks in the snow,only one of them human,I noticed a movement in the bush just slightly ahead of me.A coyote  stepped out into my path,glanced briefly in my direction,then,just as quickly ,and without a sound disappeared into the bushes on the other side of the path.It was not the first time I've encountered a coyote here in the city,but I'd never before seen one this close to downtown.

Like many Calgarians,I've come to know the coyote as a familiar,if not a common sight.More than once I've encountered them from only a few feet away.

You might well ask how a coyote would come to be in the heart of one of the largest and busiest urban areas on the Canadian prairies,but,in truth,they are quite common.Calgary,unlike some cities has a lot of wilderness even relatively close to it's downtown core.The Rockies are just to the west and there are two river valley systems which allow coyotes to travel about while avoiding roadways and other highly developed areas.Still,they visit urban areas in most parts of North America,in search of food and,as a species have become rather adaptive and successful.

Rabbits would seem to have been plentiful on Princes Island if the abundance of tracks was any indication,so perhaps that accounts for the coyote as well.Out on the pond,there were the shadowy forms of perhaps sixty ducks and a smaller number of Canada Geese..As the sky was lightening,I noticed that one of the ducks had a pronounced limp.Likely it had tried to land on the pond not realizing that the water was partly frozen over,and had injured itself in a collision with the ice.That might also account for the coyote,as they are known to be opportunistic hunters who will prey on injured animals.

People who are not familiar with coyotes ask me if I'm not afraid of them.The answer is,"not especially."Most of the ones around Calgary are smallish,maybe thirty five or forty pounds,though the occasional one is much bigger.They usually look a lot like a thin,hungry version of a German Shepard and,at times I suspect they are mistaken as exactly that.While I've been told that they run in packs,I've never seen more than one at a time,except of course for the very first one I ever encountered on the way to work one spring morning.

On Calgary's east side,Blackfoot Trail crosses Ogden Road,then bends around to the south,while Ogden Road runs in a generally southerly direction.Between the two roads is an industrial area,with some railroad tracks up on a ridge.Despite the factories and mills,the area is not frequented much by people,especially along the tracks.In 2001,an old rail bridge still  spanned Blackfoot Trail.It was this bridge that I would taske to my job at the IKO mill,which occupied a large site just off Ogden Road.

One May morning,just after the long weekend,I was walking along the tracks as usual when I rounded the slight bend just south of the bridge.And there,standing on the tracks dead ahead was a coyote.I had no idea what this coyote would do,having never seen one so close before.Not wanting to turn back and take the meandering Ogden Road,I decided to press onward,vaguely remembering some radio show advising that if you were to see a coyote,you should stand erect and make yourself look as large as possible,thus establishing yourself as an alpha pack member.Coyotes,it seems perceive people as not humans,but as other canines.At no time should you turn and run,because that is supposed to cause coyotes to perceive you as prey.I have no idea if this is good advice because,in the end I had no need of it.

For a few paces,maybe a hundred or so yards,the coyote just walked on ahead of me,maintaining a distance of about a hundred and fifty feet.Then she slipped down the steep bank into a gully,allowing me to pass.But,just as soon as I did,she came back up the slope and began following me,not seeming in the least disturbed.She remained at exactly the same distance as she had when I had been following her.It did not seem that she was stalking me,as I'm certain that we both knew of each others presence,and moreover,were aware of each others awareness.

For the next quarter mile a nervous sort of a dance took place.I walked on,but occasionally turned back to keep track of my canine companion.Each time I would stop,she would stop as well.If I took one step toward her,she took one step back.When I took a step away from her,she took one toward me.Always and only one exactly measured step.

Farther down the track there is a second rail bridge.When I crossed it I walked on for maybe another hundred yards.To my left was a small truck depot where I normally stepped off the tracks and headed toward the back part of the IKO property where I worked.taking a final look at my companion,and wondering what she would do I stepped down from the tracks to my left.As I did,she likewise stepped down,only she departed to the right,leaving me to wonder what had really happened.What was the point to her very precise choreography?

The very next morning,my companion was waiting at exactly the same time and in exactly the same place.And the dance continued exactly as before,step for step,ending exactly as it had the day before.Measuring me up.I'm sure that's what she was doing.I had no intentions of doing her harm,and in fact was starting to enjoy her company.But I'm sure she didn't know this.It took her a few days to become convinced,and convinced I hope she was.

It wasn't long until I discovered the reason for this creatures behavior-following,not stalking.Just at the point where we had been parting ways each morning,there is a small ,bowl shaped valley,where the tracks and a road meet at a right angle.In the middle of this little hollow,in some tall prairie grass were a couple of large metal oil drums.It was inside one of these drums that she was hiding her family of four,or perhaps five pups.By this time she had stopped following me.For a few days I would set off for work a half hour early so I could stop and watch the pups frolic in the grass.Mama lay at the entrance of her metal den,pretending to rest,while keeping a watchful eye on her young.

Then one morning they were gone.Coyote mothers are known to maintain more than one den,and will often move the pups from one den to another.Perhaps she did this in response to my watching,or perhaps someone else disturbed her.I prefer to think it is just the coyote way of doing things,but,either way I never saw her or her family again

                                                                     To Be Continued.