Tall Tales with Jack
I am amazed at the situations the “Big Guy” constantly gets us into as we crisscross North America. For a moment, close your eyes and open your olfactory sensors and imagine you can smell the fragrance of a fresh caldron of seafood chowder slowly cooking on an old wood stove.
You sneak up to the huge pot, grab a pot holder and raise the lid a smidgen as you cradle your nose between the lid and the edge of the simmering brew. You inhale and hold your breath. Your mouth begins to water and you want to reach into the bubbling concoction with the ladle laying motionless on the counter top, but your mother had taught good manners, so you wait.
Just think of the anticipation we had as we headed up a seldom used logging road secure in the knowledge that our two gallon Tupperware bowl was nestled securely in the closed microwave oven a top the stove in the rocking motor home.
I couldn’t wait for dinner, and neither could the BIG GUY and his friend, a former professional player, Greg Steel, who was traveling with us. “As soon as we get to the end of the road up near the Nipisiquit Falls, we’ll pull in and set up for the night and feast on that bowl of chowder,” said the BIG GUY.
I can usually count on him to get us into and then out of situations, but this time he outguessed himself. Thankfully we were not moving fast up this bear track as I watched the road narrow and the tree limbs slapping our windshield and grazing the vents atop the roof. Old reliable was rocking and rolling from east to west and back again. I began to tremble, which is a trait we Chihuahuas have, but this time my premonition was correct. I lumped from the passenger’s seat next to Rusty and onto the floor and headed for the shelter and overhanging cove of the bed.
No sooner had I curled up in my fetal ball that we hit a deeper than usual rut in the road and lurched violently to one side away from the micro wave. Suddenly the door of the radio wave oven flew open followed by a flying container of homemade seafood chowder.
It looked like a difficult billiard shot involving three or four combinations of hits as it bounced off one wall across the space between the stove and clothes closet, then off the door of the seat cushion above my head and onto the floor of the still moving motor home coming to rest on its side, lid off and contents decorating ex-very square of most of the unit.
I let out a howl of fear and the BIG GUY just turned the interior of the motor home blue as he slammed on the brakes throwing the three of us into a self defensive mode so we wouldn’t break a limb as we stopped with a rude jolt forward.
So now you know how the tale of the seafood chowder almost ended. Now, let me tell you the rest of the story
Janet Brine is a talented Acadian miss with a culinary genius. When it comes to the kitchen she is without equal! Janet’s culinary genius was handed down from mothers to daughters since the arrival of North America’s first European settlers, the Acadians, in 1604.
Last summer, the Big Guy and I headed for our home fishing port, Petit Cap (Little Cap), New Brunswick. It was our annual week of lobster fishing with our buddies in this quaint corner of the world. We never miss opening day, the anticipation, hundreds of families and tourists lining the wharf for the traditional pre-dawn, send-off, the magnificent sun rise, laying the first string of traps, and at day’s end pulling one of the 75 pound nets to see if our established goals for the season will be realized.
Along on this trip was one of the Big Guy’s former professional hockey players, Greg “Rusty” Steel. Rusty was one of the first players sent to Kalamazoo, Michigan, by the parent Detroit Red Wings, in 1974. Kalamazoo was the newest brain child of Detroit Red Wings owner Bruce Norris and the Big Guy had been given the challenge of building it literally from the ground up. Kalamazoo was to become the newest member of the age old International Hockey League and Greg was one of the first players Detroit assigned to it for development.
Rusty and his former coach had remained close over the years and had experienced significant trauma in their respective lives that had kept them close. Rusty had just gone through a tragic event in his life and was on the road with the Big Guy to get away from it all and to clear his mind and spirit of the agony he had just experienced.
After a week of fishing and exposing Greg to the life of a helper on a lobster boat we were rewarded with a surprise gift from Captain Kevin, his brother Richard and their sister Janet--a large pot of homemade, Atlantic Ocean seafood chowder. This pot of gold brought drool to the corners of your mouth the minute your nose connected with the fragrance emitted from beneath the lid. Janet understandably didn’t provide her secret recipe when asked, and a gentleman never asks twice.
All we knew was the pot contained every freshly caught specimen of fish living in the Northumberland Strait, between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island--lobster, scallops, three different types of clams, halibut, succulent rock crab, Atlantic salmon, oysters, home grown new potatoes, sweet corn, fresh cream from the local farmer and an array of spices that only Janet understood.
Unfortunately, the sun was setting, the day’s catch had been logged in with the buyer and we were destined to head to the Nipisquit River four hours north before the stars came out. The Big Guy believes he has a quality called “infinite wisdom,” a quality we all who know him understand to be a figment of his imagination. Who in their right mind, obviously he was using his left brain, would believe that a full pot of fluid sitting atop a swaying motor home would stay put for four hours over the less than accommodating roads?
Rusty dosed for most of the four hours trying to recover from his week as a novice crewmember on a lobster boat where the backbreaking work of fishermen had caught up to him. I sat motionless on my bed between the two front seats, eyes fixed upon the microwave oven where the pot of seafood gold had been stowed.
We hit the cutoff point on N.B. Hwy 8 and made a hard left turn onto a Micmac Indian reservation, headed up a hill along the river then around a bend, crossed a rickety old wooden bridge and onto the narrow tree lined dirt road once used by logging trucks. The Motor Home swayed but the microwave oven door remained closed.
Rusty was unmoved by the rocking and rolling of the unit and blessed us with a crescendo of loud stuttering snoring sounds that would awaken the dead in a nearby cemetery if the windows had been open.
The Big Guy was singing aloud, out of tune, a traditional Acadian folk song, insisting he was as qualified as the artist on the radio…not!
We finally reached our destination, the Pabineau Falls on the Nipisquit River where I had understood we would park for the night. We all needed a break and a good night’s sleep so that when dawn broke over the falls we could lie face down over the lip of the rushing water and watch the salmon jump from swirling whirlpools over top of the eight foot high wall of cascading water.
What I believe and what actually happens with this crew are strictly illusions in my mind; there is no logic within this cargo ship.
Unfortunately, the small parking area was filled with romance and the stench of beer. Rusty awoke and was rewarded for his sleep preventing efforts with a trip to the lip of the rushing falls to check if the salmon were running and jumping. It was spawning season and the fish were destined to reach the breeding grounds, come death or high water.
I, on the other hand, meandered here and there sniffing out every exhilarating aroma I could find on every stone and bush within a 100 feet. Ah, the aromas of marking…I love it! It’s always a treat to relieve myself over the scent of others before me.
No sooner was I comfortable and looking forward to cuddling next to the Big Guy under the comforter and his enormous heat producing body when he climbed back into the driver’s seat, fired-up the engine and headed up the rutty, narrowing road into the night.
/span>OMG, (Oh my God) I said to myself! What is this guy trying to do? Where does he think he’s headed at this time of day? He cannot see the hand before his face even with his bright lights on and he’s hitting all these ruts at an incredible speed. I later overheard him say he was only going 5 mph, but it sure seemed faster than that in the creaking motor home.
And then it happened…an open oven door, a pot of chowder in the air and voila. The rest cannot be printed. Suffice to say the air turned blue and Rusty was ecstatic. I opened my eyes from beneath the overhanging pull bed and heard Rusty holler, “STOP, STOP!” And stop we did. Rusty threw open the passenger side door and recoiled to the main compartment door and pulled it open even before the Motor home had come to a complete stop.
/span>I watched in amazement as the burly Moose Jaw resident scooped up handful after handful of the scattered chowder. Nice job I thought. What a joy having Rusty along; this mess will be cleaned-up in no time. However, I am not always correct with my assumptions. As the Big Guy muttered inflammatory adjectives or verbs, Rusty began eating the reclaimed spoils. “What the hell do you think you’re doing,” shouted the Big Guy in disbelief. I must admit I was wondering the same thing.
“Are you kidding,” he shouted back, “Do you think I’m going to let any of this go to waste?” he said with his typical dry humor. “I’ve been dreaming about this meal all the way here and don’t have any intentions of not indulging in Janice’s chowder,” he continued. “Besides, a little dirt, sand and gravel mixed in won’t hurt me.”
OMG, is he serious I wondered? I wasn’t about to wait for my brain to respond to my self-proclaimed rhetorical question so I made a mad dash for the best and juiciest morsels of fish I could find. For an instant I thought I’d have to bite Rusty’s hand to keep him away from my chosen parcels, but we intuitively knew who would get what, and how.
I always knew hockey players were animals, but now it was confirmed. The two guys I was riding with were something else….completely nuts! But the chowder was good.
We still had a long way to go--1500 more miles and we’d be home. We also had a few more stops along the way, another week on the road. Do you know what sour cream and seafood chowder smells like after a week buried in a rug and unseasonably hot days?
Six months later after three detailing jobs and two intense attempts by Rusty to shampoo the interior when we finally made it home had not removed the odor of Janice’s homemade seafood chowder.
Hopefully, by next spring when we hit the road again, the chowder smell will be gone and the Big Guy will have learned a lesson on stowing vulnerable liquid food stuffs before heading a rut road in the bush.
It never ceases to amaze me!
I look forward to the spring and being on the road again.
Welcome to Tall Tales with Jack! Jack, that's me, a feisty black and white Chihuahua. I'm in the country legally although my ancestors immigrated from the Province bearing my name hundreds of years ago.
I am proud of my lineage and roots. My family was here to welcome the Spanish Conquistidors to the New World in the 15th Century.
My relatives and I have had numerous conversations about the arrival of the Spanish and whether we should have bit them on the ankles and sent them home or whether their arrival was a bonus for our way of life.
In retrospect, it didn't turn out to well for our human brothers and sisters; they all died as a result of the infectious diseases the Spanish shared with us upon their arrival.
Another problem for us was we couldn't get rid of the invaders anyway because their leader Cortez burnt all the boats so they couldn't return even if we had asked them too. So here we are, living peacefully with each other on what has come to be known as the NAFTA Continent.
My companion and I, "The Big Guy," have travelled across the country from east to west and north to south and boy have we had some experiences. Although I can't wait to climb into my perch in the motor home, I never know from one mile to the other whether or not we'll make it to the next pit stop in one piece.
We are photographers of nature and our life is spent tracking and creating images of interesting and exciting people, places and subjects in the wild and not so wild places we find along our routes.
Speaking of routes; we never use the Interstate, instead we use the Blue Highways and the dirt back roads of America, Canada and Mexico as our treasure troves for images, stories and features.
My column is intended to be a catharsis. I need to share my adventures with you because no one else would believe some of the adventures "The Big Guy" gets us into.
No one that is other than the U-Haul Trailer Company who honored us with a feature on their web site after we did a magnificent job of recording the migration of threatened semipalmated sandpipers in Shepody Bay, in New Brunswick, Canada.
Shepody Bay is the western most point of the magnificent Bay of Fundy and a major re-fueling stop-over point for the little birds on their way from the breeding grounds in the Canadian Artic to their wintering grounds in South America. I'm tired thinking of how far these little 20g. birds travel during the course of a year...whew!
Now that I have introduced myself and that other guy, I call my driver, I promise I'll have another column for you to enjoy very soon. I have the stories but at the moment my driver is calling, we are scheduled to hit the trail looking for another Tall Tale, in a few minutes. Stay tuned, I'll be back soon.
Your best friend:
I don’t know about the “Big-Guy,” he can’t win for loosing, and he’s a treat to watch. We were meandering back to our winter home in Michigan in early March after spending a month in the Florida panhandle creating images and minding our own business when I decided I needed a pit stop and a bite.
The bite has a double meaning, sometimes it’s one of those awful Purina dog treats, a plain donut hole (sugar is fattening,) or a shared Big Mac with the “Big-Guy.” Then again if a clerk at the drive through window puts a hand through the window to pat me on the head while uttering those most insulting words, “Isn’t that little fellow cute! What kind of dog is he, eh?” I have a tendency to respond by nipping a finger or two before the “Big-Guy” can respond. It’s fun to watch their reaction as apologizes fly. Usually things go flying and the culprit gets the message, I’m not cute, moron, I’m a Rottweiler with an attitude, got into some bad dog chow a while back and lost a lot of weight.
When will people learn not to invader a dog’s space? Anyway, back to the story. We stopped at a McDonald’s in Evergreen, Alabama, pulled up to the order window and waited, waited and waited. By the time we finally got service the leaves had begun to turn color. Not because fall had arrived but from the color of the prevailing attitude in the vehicle. All we wanted was a simple cup of coffee, a single plain English muffin, a double order of scrambled eggs, nothing on them, three squirts of cream and Splenda added to the large cup (he even said please) and a stir stick. But then he made a fatal mistake, he asked for hot sauce…I hate it when he adds hot sauce. My ancestors may have enjoyed the stuff but it gives me gas and he doesn’t like me passing gas when he’s driving. He should have known we had a problem; it took three tries to get the phantom at the other end of the voice box to repeat the order coherently.
I understood the comeback but he uttered something under his breath like, “what country is this anyway? Jack, did I miss a border crossing somewhere along the way?” He wasn’t happy. He did have a point, after all if I can learn the language why can’t Americans? It was a strange use of the English, eh, American English language. I’ve traveled with the “Big-Guy” enough to know when his blood pressure is rising, and it’s not a pretty picture. He reminds me of the awful thermometer they use when I have my annual physical, (wish they had a head strip). He gets red as a tomato, his white hair and beard become crimson and his eyes bulge, a lot like mine, and he utters a soliloquy of incoherent adjectives, or is it adverbs….no, in his case I think they are verbs; he’s so animated. By the time we reached the drive through window after paying three bucks, the town of Evergreen was turning blue.
Then it happened. The order came five minutes later as we waited outside the pick-up window. I tightened my seat belt (I always use a seat belt) in anticipation of our Cape Kennedy take-off, standard for him when he’s irritated, but no, not this time. The man of many talents and redundancies opened the bag. Why did the idiot break with tradition? I ducked into the back seat after scurrying to get the belt opened, and hid under my bed. He was biting his lower lip, difficult for him, he doesn’t wear his top partial plate when we travel; for that matter he doesn’t wear his bottom partial plate either. Thank God, he’d have bitten through his lip if he hadn’t lost so many teeth playing hockey. To his credit he controlled himself, took a deep breath, looked at the unknowing employee standing in the window and said, “This is not my order!”
Oops, the poor thing made a mistake. “Yes it is!” she replied with authority. No, girl, you don’t say no to the “Big-Guy.” You use tact, smile, use some well developed customer service techniques and say, “I’m so sorry sir, what did you ordered?” He handed her the bag and explained his order again. Oops, obviously she wasn’t getting it; another mistake. She thrust the bag back at him and said, “This is your order, exactly what you ordered!” For a moment I held my breath, put my paws over my eyes and wrapped my tail around my ears. I prayed; “Oh God, please forgive me for all my sins and please keep him out of the clink and me out of the pound (I hate the pound, lousy food), and I promise I’ll never bite another window violator again.” Amazing what you do when a crisis is pending. The “Big-Guy” opened the bag buried hid head into the top and gracefully extracted it, smiled sarcastically and reached through the window and said, “This is not my order!”
I don’t know if the communication between the two was a case of missed communications or the difference between some educated in a private non-governmental school or a person educated in the failing public school system (government and unionized), but even I could understand the disconnect; and I don’t even speak either language. The exchange continued; the indignant young girl pushed her hand, bag in hand back out the window and snapped, “Sir, this is your order and it’s time for me to serve the next customer!” I guess she was saying stuff it and tough. Oops, was this the catalyst for an explosion? I prayed. To my bewilderment and undying faith that there is a God, the “Big-Guy,” simply placed the bag on the sill of the window and smiled. Then, as the supervisor approached the window he said, “I am sorry for the mix-up, Mam, but this is not my order and then explained for the third time exactly what he had ordered--a simple English muffin, dry, no butter, a double order of scrambled eggs and a large coffee with three cream, three Splenda and a stir stick.
The supervisor and employee put their heads together and conferred. Then without comment the bag was thrust back through the window with an accompanying glare from both. Before I could re-attach my seat belt we were in a launch mode and off we went. No fork, no spoon, no stir stick. You should have seen the “Big-Guy” try and drink his coffee with no Splenda or cream and eat the scrambled eggs while driving (without his beloved hot sauce). He offered me a bite and I couldn’t bring myself to eating the plain, tasteless powered eggs. I’d have rather eaten chalk and so would he. He’s still mumbling about Evergreen, Alabama, and we’ve been back over a month now. I hope he’ll recover some day, but I’m betting McDonald’s won’t be at the top of his fast food list…at least in Alabama.
Holy cow! What a response from my first column. I appreciate the responses and invites received from our “Schools” program.
As promised sit back and enjoy another Tall Tale with me and “The Big Guy.” Travelling with my partner is sometimes thrilling and at other times downright scary. We are a team and our job is to capture nature at its best and worse as we travel across North America. Although I have four good legs “The Big Guy” is restricted to only one that works like it should. He’s aging and needs a new right hip and limps along while I want to run, jump and scramble up hills, into valleys and smell my way through the salt marshes we visit to photograph hundreds of migrating shorebirds.
“The Big Guy” decided he wanted to capture an endangered species of butterfly, The Nipisquit Ringlet, in the marshes of North Western New Brunswick in Canada. This pretty little marsh butterfly only lives in three salt marshes in the area and has a life span of two to three weeks. Capturing images of this little creature is a challenging. The best time of the day is early morning before they dry their wings in the rising sun and begin to fly. Have you ever tried to follow a butterfly in a breeze?
“The Big Guy” did for the longest time until I tugged on his rubber chest waders, after a few hours of watching his futile efforts, and pointed to the underside of a salt grass stem and suggested he try capturing that one. Voila! A picture of a Ringlet. I really don’t know what he’d do without my help? Coming from Mexico I am not a huge fan of the cold but I’ve learned to adjust and accept it if I want to travel across the country. However, I draw a line in the sand when “The Big Guy” forces me to venture into the marshes as the cold Atlantic tide is rising. My crazy partner gets his chest waders on and off he goes into the ankle deep water never paying attention to me and the fact that my legs are only four inches long. Besides I hate to swim, especially in the cold heartless Atlantic. Not only is it the swimming it’s the salt as well. My skin is so sensitive that when I’m forced to wend my way through the rising tide my skin dries out and then I begin to itch and it drives me crazy. Although my brain is much smaller than “The Big Guy’s” it functions much better, than his, most of the time. After thinking I would be left behind watching him venture off on another shooting spree thorough the marsh and jumping into the freezing water, to try and keep up, I came to the conclusion that I should wait and see. So I did. Once “The Big Guy” got himself situated and the tripod set-up for the shot he was hoping for I’d find a path to him by jumping from tuff of sea grass to tuff without touching the water.
I wouldn’t leave the comfort of my land base until “The Big Guy” got down in a prone position, in the water, and propped himself-up on his elbows watching the Ringlet and waiting for the appropriate light and look so he could create the best image. After all, photography is all about light and timing is everything. Early morning light is magnificent and makes the captures jump with life. The only trick is to locate the butterfly while it is covered with morning dew, that look like diamonds on a princess.
So while “The Big Guy” lies there, sometimes for hours, without moving I get to him and jump up on his back, make myself comfortable and enjoy the sun while my colleague gets himself wet and stiff while he lies there in the rising and descending tide. I keep trying to help him but he just won’t listen.
Then the fun begins; have you ever seen a walrus try and stand on his tail? You better believe I get out of the way the minute I see that butterfly fly. I know the shoot is over and I don’t want to get crushed if “The Big Guy” happens to fall like a tall timber as he makes his way to his feet. Could you imagine what I’d look like if that happened?
It did on another day and for awhile I looked like a sausage dog……I mean an Dachshund, that long short legged rat chaser. But that’s a story for another day. Until then……the motor home is leaving and I don’t want to miss another adventure with “The Big Guy.”
Your best friend:
Picture this: A moose and her calf being chased by an oversized ex-hockey player, being chased by an extremely oversized ex-coach. I sat awed at the site of two grown men trying to get a picture of the mother and baby on the Cabot Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands of Canada’s Nova Scotia. It was a Kodak, eh, Canon- moment, and I’m not referring to the picturesque beauty of the Trail but the site of these two behemoths trying to catch-up to the fleet footed beasts.
Rusty (Steel) was a novice photographer, with a hand held point and shoot camera, who jumped from the motor home before the “Big Guy” had a chance to bring it to a full halt on the steep slope of the Trail. I watched in amazement as the “Big Guy” bolted out of the RV and made tracks after our traveling companion, Rusty.
Rusty had no idea of the threat he was presenting to the huge cow and didn’t realize the damage she could have inflicted upon him had she decided to get ugly. However, like all Maritimers this big moose was docile and laid back….thank God.
The “Big Guy” knew what to expect if she turned to defend her calf, learning the lesson himself in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming a few years back. He had been escorted from the park by a Ranger when he attempted to photograph a cow and calf alongside of the road just inside the east gate.
Even the “Big Guy” admits he was wrong and should have made himself more familiar with park rules, but the hockey player in him was too strong and he didn’t see any danger in his actions. He’s the first to admit it hasn’t happened again and he demonstrates great respect for all wild critters on their home turf.
But Rusty was off to the races and the “Big Guy” was in hot, well maybe panting, pursuit hollering at the top of his expanding lungs for Rusty to STOP. Thankfully the cow kept right on going, heading to the ditch alongside the highway and into the cluster of woods.
Once the “Big Guy” caught up to the wayward novice he took a minute, well about five minutes, to catch his breath before he uttered his first coherent sentence; “Do you realize you could have been killed?” he blurted out as he gasped for another liter of oxygen. “Killed?” responded red faced Steel. “Killed,” he repeated. At that moment the two mammoths from a by-gone era leaned forward placing their trembling hands on each others shoulders for vertical support, and refrained from any further dialogue until they had regained their respective stability and air replenishment.
What a site I thought out loud as I made my feelings felt in my own vociferous way. By the time the two less than athletic looking specimens arrived at the motor home they had regained their breath and composure and had a chuckle. It was easy for them to laugh out loud but no one considered me in their folly. Who would have driven the motor home if one had been killed by the moose and the other died of a heart attack from over exertion? Although I have four legs, the “Big Guy” has still not modified the gas and brake pedals to allow me to reach them even when he needs me to help him drive after a shoot.
A sedate lecture on wild animal habits and attitudes toward human threats ensued and Rusty, the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native had the clue he needed about future encounters with a critter and a camera.
The trip continued and no harm came to any of us, but a good lesson was learned, albeit after the fact. Never allow your enthusiasm overcome your need for caution when on the home ice surface of a more than adequate opponent.
That is why they are called wild animals. It’s also why we, humans, are endowed with the ability to reason and determine the difference between good and bad before it gets ugly.
Thanks for reading my latest installment.
For months now I have been telling you behind the scenes stories about my travels with the Big Guy. I only weigh seven pounds so you can understand why I have an attitude and the bite to match; I have to look up to everyone including other dogs and primates. Although the Big Guy does his best to protect me, as well as everyone else, there are those occasions when the roles are reversed. This is a tale of one of those days.
Before I begin my story, I have to let you know that I’ve been considering a change when referring to the Big Guy. I thought that calling him the Big Dude would fit his personality better. What is a big dude? The dictionary describes it as “a man who is much concerned with his dress and appearance.” Well, that takes care of my thought for the day! My pal, sometimes referred to by his close friends as Don Quixote, is a free-spirit and oblivious to his looks or attire. He loves comfort and that applies to tops, bottoms, shoes, boots the whole wardrobe…which isn’t much, just washed and recycled every other day. Most people don’t know that the master of tilting windmills was once the wardrobe designer for Clem Kaddiddlehopper of Red Skelton fame. My friend forces me, to watch the Best of Skelton video re-runs in the motor home, night after night. What torture!
Moving on! We had made our way into the backwoods of Northeastern New Brunswick, (Canada) where I was told we were going on Safari for whatever we could find. I looked up with that inquisitive look and asked, “Bears too, Big Guy?” “Bears,” he responded, with that impish grin that meant here we go again…more excitement. Jolly I thought, just what I needed, a hungry bear looking for an appetizer…me.
We motored an hour or so along old logging roads until we reached a partially secluded entrance, which looked more like a tunnel opening in Tora Bora than a pathway to excitement. He made a sharp left turn and entered into another of his fantasy worlds. The path was barely wide enough for the motor home to squeeze through the trees blasting our sides and roof like a gauntlet of hockey players slapping their sticks on the boards. After edging our way forward over the rut filled trail for thirty minutes we burst into an opening, which exposed one of the most beautiful and secluded areas we had ever explored. We had found a convergence of two rivers, the Tracadie and one of her tributaries. A peaceful spot, overlooking a bronze colored body of water, shimmering in the fading sun, as it meandered between us and the succulent emerald meadow on the opposite side a few yards away. It was almost like the Big Guy knew where he was going. I wasn’t fooled; I’d been down that road before. There were times when he thought he knew where we were, only to find out we had no way to turn around nor to continue going forward and had to back out of his mess for over a mile or two. Never a dull moment with my jumbo leader!
We positioned the motor home about twenty feet from the shore and opened the living quarter’s door. He wanted to unload the gear, set up quickly and be ready for the golden light and afterglow of the setting sun. While he worked, I surveyed and marked the territory as my own. Once we settled in we broke out our dinner, made ourselves comfortable, and hurriedly downed the vacuum packed dehydrated meals of pork and refried beans.
Daylight dies quickly in the woods and this was no different; except an image with the addition of descending sunlight is most spectacular. The Big Guy wasted little time and positioned himself behind his Canon 1Ds camera mounted with a 500mm f/4 lens, adjacent to the water’s edge. He looked at me sitting peacefully at his feet and suggested we might catch a bull moose or another creature in this super setting, before we lost this magnificent light; it was fall and beautiful images are created when the sun sets low on the horizon.
Within minutes our wishes were answered. To our right, just beyond the cover of the shrub brush, I sensed a presence. I alerted the Big Guy. After years together, I knew my senses were significantly more acute to stimuli than his aging sight, olfactory or auditory functions, or anything else for that matter. He had also learned to respond to my communications, and this time was no exception.
Momentarily, we saw the tan nose, poking through the green and gold leaves of the glistening shrubs. “Shhhh,” he whispered, “Shhhh.” I wondered if he was kidding. This was the front end of a west-bound bear, and he was headed in our direction. There was no time for a Shhhh’s only, Holy Cow!
“Hope she doesn’t have cubs,” he whispered through his trembling lips. Cubs…hell, I was hoping for a male. At least that way he may be more afraid of us than we are of him, but if he’s a rogue, we could be his dinner?
There are a few things the Big Guy has taught me over the years about being in the woods. When we run into a bear, make a lot of noise and don’t try and outrun it. If it attacks, fight like hell because the furry creature will kill and eat you. Black bears do what black bears do! Then he’d add a caveat; the bear will turn and run charge and bluff, or charge and kill you. This thought of “kill you” was becoming an obsession. I needed to refocus and do it quickly. Joy! I was trying to push the thought of being ripped apart limb by limb and wondering if the Big Guy would sacrifice me to save himself. After all, I’m a tender bite sized morsel for this big furry bruin. Besides, how far does loyalty go in a crisis?
Then my world evaporated in a flash. Mr. Outdoorsman, champion, lost his mind, and violated all the rules he had been preaching. He went deathly silent, looked at the open RV door and decided he was still faster than a portly New Brunswick black bear with an attitude. As the big bruin moved from the cover of the brush to the clearing, it became apparent it was a he and not a she bear with cubs; one point for the good guys. Then like a bolt of lightning the big sissy, made a critical mistake; he bolted for the open door leaving me to fend for myself.
No please God no, if he gets him I’m next; that stupid idiot was supposed to make noise and stand tall and beat his hairy chest or do something else obnoxious to ward off an attack. Oh no, run you, imbecile. The bear was three leaps and a spring from us and the RV was another leap beyond that. Unfortunately, the sprint had begun, as the Big Guy leaped for the open door, losing his fashionable crocks behind in his haste. If the tie goes to the runner, then the bear won! Mr. Bear made a sweeping motion with his big black paw, making contact with the Big Guy’s right foot. There was a thud as the Big Guy bounced into the doorway, half of his ample body on the floor his other half (not his better half) dangling to the ground like Raggedy Andy.
Unfortunately for the bear but fortunately for us, the bear was startled and stopped dead in his tracks looking at the big toe, toe nail, dripping blood, hanging from his claw. He had just surgically removed the nail by the roots from the Big Guys right foot. What precision and accuracy an irate bear can have when he is possessed by determination. However, the bear’s hesitation provided the instant I needed to spring into action.
I raced for the back end of the bear and there dangling before me was the appealing pendulum, of reproductive organs, now vulnerable for my kamikaze assault. The Big Guy must have had so much adrenaline flowing though his system that he barely felt the pain. It must have been excruciating and raging through his body as he waited for the next assault. His big toe was spewing blood like a musical fountain in the middle of an urban lake. All he needed to do was reach up, grab the handle to the door and slam it closed before the bear realized there was no point in continuing his attack; except finding me and enjoying a tender morsel of chien (dog).
I give the Big Guy credit as he reached up for the door handle he shouted, “Run Jack, run” as he pulled himself to his feet. Once the bear realized that he was not in possession of a hefty chunk of leg, he turned back toward the Big Guy. That was my cue to seize the moment, and I did!
Up I went using all my strength to reach a new high jump record in the Chihuahua Olympics. There they were, swinging like the pendulum in a grandfather clock. Timing was everything, and I had no time to waste. Up I went, jaws ajar, and like a vice grip latched to a rusty bolt, I attached myself to the bears balls.
I had never experienced the G-forces of a whirligig before but suddenly I realized I’d better tighten my grip and hang-on for my life. My normal 50 pounds per square inch bite miraculously increased to a 1,000 pounds psi, as I prayed.
The startled bear swirled half way around to his right to see what the hell was attacking his privates. With that I was swung to his left out of his line of sight. Then he swung to the left and I swung to the right. Poor fellow was having a terrible time trying to identify what on earth was inflicting the mysterious pain on his south end. The back and forth action continued three or more times and I began to feel the G-forces pulling at me with such force I realized I was about to lose my grip. If the beached whale, floundering and stumbling around in the doorway, would simply close the damn door I could let go and be gone. Then and maybe the two of us would prevail in this awkward situation.
As I came around the fourth time I looked at the Big Guy, winked (after all I had my mouth full and couldn’t speak), saw him acknowledge my sign, while he finally jumped to attention, bleeding toe and all, slammed the door allowing me to release my grip as the G-forces reached their optimum thrust.
I was hoping above hope the bruin would disappear. If he chose to repay me for my rude introduction to his genitals I would end-up dead. I cart wheeled head over tail into the bushes, picked myself up, and dusted myself off, just in time to see his mammoth black ass heading into the river; no doubt trying to sooth his aching organs.
I let out a howl in celebration of my victory over the furry monster and licked my paws as my way of patting myself on the back. Just then the door of the RV flew open and there standing on the top step was the cowardly wildlife photographer, with his toe wrapped in a bloody towel. As he cringed in pain my eagle eye caught the largest piece of left-over steak I had ever seen. He had it in his trembling hand, inviting me to come get his peace offering. It was leftover from the previous night’s meal, but who cares…it was steak.
I yipped in appreciation, stood on my hind quarters, my tongue hanging over the side of my drooling jowls, as he positioned the juicy morsel between my waiting lips and patted me affectionately on the head. I’m not sure if I had that dreadful stupid begging look on my face, but who cares at a time like this? If the truth were known I wanted the juicy piece of sirloin more than the bear’s balls. A dog has got to do what a dog has got to do to merit a snack. There is a doggy God and he was with me that evening…on two counts.
The Big Guy put a pressure bandage on his toe, fired up the RV and headed for the emergency room at the Tracadie Memorial Hospital. Four hours later, a blood transfusion and a handful of pain pills, the Big Guy and I curled up under our welcome comforter and a slipped into a well deserved night’s sleep. Our camp ground this night just happened to be the secure confines of the local Super Store parking lot. No bears, moose or whirligig.
Another experience and more memory making moments!
Depending, on whether you are an optimist or pessimist, today is either the shortest day or longest night of the year. I choose to think of it as a time when days begin to get longer and spring is only 90 days away. Looking back 90 days I was just leaving the east coast of Canada and heading back to Michigan from our summer digs. Now I’ve settled in and have cleared my busy social calendar for a few days it’s time for me to share some of the interesting stories about our recent trip. When I say “our,” I mean me and the BIG GUY, better known in some circles as Bob Belliveau-Ferrin Lemieux…and you think I suffer from an identity crisis!
I was invited to be with the BIG GUY’s at his exhibition at the World Congress of Acadians in the Acadian Peninsula of Northeastern New Brunswick, Canada, in mid-August. The peninsula is not new to me; I’ve been tramping through the marshes, wetlands, beaches and backwaters with the BIG GUY for the past four years. What a trip!
When I first hooked-up with him he had already been exploring the region for two years so it helped me adjust quickly once I realized he knew where he was going and how in the name of good St. Peter he was going to find our way out of some of the places we ended up exploring and photographing.
If he wasn’t stuck (hard to do with a four wheel drive truck) in a bog or logging road somewhere I’d be sitting atop his prone whale shaped body, beached in a tidal marsh waiting to capture a rear butterfly or creepy crawly creature that he found exciting. While he was filling his chest waders with the incoming tide I would perch on his back enjoying the sun and my surroundings. I love bringing my private island with me everywhere we go.
However, once the doors to the World Congress of Acadians exhibition opened I realized why it was all worth it….The BIG GUY had captured the essence of the region, her creatures, landscapes and her people in a masterful way that even left me in awe. I’ve been around him too long to be awed by anything he does, but I must admit this was the exception!
I had established myself in my usual cozy corner under his desk, in my comfy basket and comforter (well wouldn’t you), and watched in amazement as visitor after visitor was awestruck and captivated by the BIG GUY’s images and the 35-minute DVD program he produced especially for the occasion. Can you believe, some attendees cried, some applauded (once, he even got a standing ovation), and everyone hung around after each showing talking, reminiscing and wanting to know more about the Peninsula and her features.
Frankly, I have never experienced anything like this in the years we have been together. Usually, I could circulate, sniff a few legs, and occasionally nip someone’s heel if they didn’t measure-up, but this was special. I never moved. I watched in silent amazement, and listened to the heartfelt feedback the BIG GUY received from appreciative visitors, whether former residents of the Peninsula, returning for the event or new folks coming to the region for the first time; thanks to the World Congress.
The visitors were not only paying tribute to six years of work, they were being educated about the environment and the Acadian people. That was another thing! Having the opportunity of being around so many Acadians at one time was overwhelming. I thought a pack of stray dogs, chasing a bitch in heat had fun, but nothing like these folks--story after story and tale after tale, with belly laughs after each storyteller finished.
These people know how to live and love. I saw more hugs between perfect strangers than sea gulls on a newly plowed field. Everyone appeared to become instant lifelong friends with as much as a salut! Not only was there an air of jocularity in the room but when the home made baked goods began appearing I could tell that it would take more than a month on Nutri-system to compensate for the caloric intake, if each of them decided to accept my pleading eyes inviting them to give me a treat. After all a guy has to do what a guy has to do. In my case, look cute, sit on my rear haunches and wag my tail.
At the end of the sixth day we were ready for a much needed rest. We had come, exhibited and shared our work and insights of the region with those who attended, and it was time to close-up and head for the tranquility of Cap Brule, our summer home, to spend some time recuperating, before heading back to our winter home in Michigan.
The Acadians and the World Congress of Acadians had demonstrated to the world what real people are like and how the love of their fellow man is fuelled by the faith they have in their creator, His mother and their strong family ties.
We’ll enjoy our time off, to allow the Big Guy to get a new hip on December 28th, and be ready to hit the trails again when the snow cover begins to melt in the spring. By April, we’ll be back in the wetlands, marshes and along the beaches doing what the BIG GUY and I do best, creating images of a paradise known to only a few.
Have you ever had your teeth cleaned? What an experience. I had mine done for the first and hopefully last time yesterday.
First “The Big Guy” enticed me into the rig he had assembled, (the RV pulling the car hauler with the God awful Nissan photo truck on it) and off we went. So why wouldn’t I think we were off on another one of our adventures?
I knew we were in trouble when the clap of thunder and the bolt of lightning or is it the other way around, smacked the pavement in front of us opening a hole in the street that we promptly drove into. And that was in the neighborhood before we hit the main drag. Everything inside the RV went sailing. For a minute I thought we were inside another tornado. I ducked and headed for the safest place I know under the passenger’s seat up front. When the rig stopped rockin’ and rollin’ I returned to my perch atop my elevated bed to assess the disaster inside our rolling home away from home.
What a mess…or maybe it was better organized now that it had been for a year or so? I was to shaken to really decide. Next thing I knew we pulled up at the front door of the Portage Animal Hospital (Michigan)….and I knew the unscheduled stop wasn’t for the Big Guy’s Benefit….he needed more help than these vets could offer. Therefore, it must have something to do with me?
I was feeling fine, had gotten over my anxiety bout in Canada a week or so earlier and so why this visit? Trusting as I am, I sauntered in, taking over the joint, and to my horror I was greeted by a wave of loving and caring ladies who wanted to share me among each other. I was swept off my feet squeezed, tickled, hugged, smooched and talked too like a new born human baby. I pleaded with the Big Guy for help by the idiot just smiled his Cheshire smile and encourage them to do whatever they had to do to make me well….I didn’t know I was sick. Since when do hiccups require this kind of fondling?
After an unceremonious weigh-in…their scales are off, I shook as I watched the backside (BIG) of the Big Guy head out the door. “I’ll be right back,” he assured me and then like a puff of smoke in a hurricane he was gone.
Next thing I knew I was on my back spread eagled like a Cabretto ready for the cooking rack in a Tijuana restaurant. Every inch of my underbelly was under examination. Not that I objected, but why? I heard Dr. Helmboldt, tell Dr. Lunney “we need to check his heart to see if he has an enlarged heart.” Of course I have an enlarged heart, I thought, I’m a dog and dog are born with enlarged hearts; don’t they love everyone?
Next a pair of warm and very gentle hands had me around the mid-section holding me close to the vest as I was carried; lovingly I must add, to the next room. Bright lights overhead and surrounded by a number of ladies, I was placed on a very cold metal table, (anyone ever consider installing a heater in those things, and helplessly watched as my foreleg was shaved, (where is that Big Guy when you need him) then a smiling assistant approached with a needle with an attached tube. When I awoke my mouth was sore and my mind was lost somewhere in a Bay of Fundy fog.
What had happened? Was I in another world? Dogs were barking, God awful cats were whining across from me while I tried to figure out what I had done to deserve this. The,this, was I had had my teeth cleaned.
Next thing I knew a delightful young lady approached with a Polaroid of the before and after shots of my teeth and mouth. Was that my mouth? Was it the same dog that had come in here a few hours earlier? Or, had they replaced my original teeth with a set of partials like the Big Guy, never wears…well almost never wears.
My new look must have been something special. Before the procedure the girls had held me at arm’s length from their face however, now I was being cuddled close to their face and they were kissing my runny nose and talking that awful human baby talk. Fortunately it was inflationary…my ego was taking it all in.
One of them let the “cat” why do we say that? Why can’t we say the dog out of the bag and looked me right in the eye and said, “Oh Jack you smell so good and your breath smells like the sweetness of morning dew on new mown hay.
WOW! Really, I thought. Maybe I should do this on a regular basis…..or better yet maybe the Big Guy should take better care of my teeth by brushing mine on a regular basis. In his case all he has to do is drop them into a Polident solution and extract them when he wants them and his job is done. I, however, is a different story. If he takes care of me, like he should, I’d get to visit the ladies often for check-ups and more of the tender loving care I was getting with=out the sore mouth……right?
When the Big Guy arrived at closing time I was quite content to stay for a while longer and absorb more of the tender care and hugging I was getting. All I could say to my driver when he picked me up out of the arms of Florence Nightingale was eat your heart out!
Thanks ladies and the care givers at the Portage Animal Hospital. Hey dogs and cats reading this…don’t wait! Get your teeth brushed and cleaned and spare yourself any ill effects from the bacteria dirty teeth can cause and their related heart problems…which are serious.
For more information of how it’s done contact: www.portageanimalhospital.com
Bugs bug me, and bugs buzzing around as I try and sleep bug me even more.A buzzing Pyractomena borealis, better known as the firefly, really gets myattention; the flashing light, on and off and on and off, drives me crazy. My pupilsopen and close and open and close with every blink, making this Chihuahua mad.
I haven’t mastered use of the fly swatter so I’m forced to snap my jaws, withunimaginable cunning to catch and render an irritating fly ineffective. The BigGuy and I have never had a misunderstanding about eliminating noisy and peskyflies as we sleep.
By eliminating the pests, I’ve kept my colleague from knocking his brainsout, while he tries to nail the pest as it lights on his head or enters his ear cavity. Ifhe only knew how silly he looks beating himself upside of the head. He does havean excuse…he played pro-hockey too long without a helmet.
The blinking of the tail assembly was irritating me. I consider using thepocket sized fire extinguisher to snuff the flickering flame, but couldn’t break theseal on the bottle.
Little did I know the chemical reaction when Luciferin combines withLuciferase and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and oxygen creates the light? It’snot a burning fire it a fringing glow lite!
Chemistry isn’t my forte; I flunked it in obedience school. It’s not the BigGuy’s either; he flunked it in high school. Therefore, I knew I had the green light(no pun intended) to put an end to my misery, or so I thought.
Apparently two scientists, Lloyd (1971) and Sivinski (1981), determined theflashing tail light signaled danger; the greater the danger the brighter the light. DidI mention those guys call the light aposematism?
Apparently, the light in the tail is supposed to let an attacker, me, know thatthe bug tastes bad. Hell, I wasn’t going to eat the thing I just wanted to create apower surge to blow his fuse.
By now I figured the Big Guy was asleep, at least it sounded like he was.The RV was rock’n and roll’n, just like it does when he’s comatose in a deep REMstate. I freed myself from under the comforter, readied myself for my assault onthe next fly-by, then snapped and missed.
My actions startled the Big Guy. He sat bolt upright, banging his headon the overhead reading lantern, his eyes wide-open like Dansk Crystal platters,pointing toward the front of the RV. “See that?” he exclaimed. “See that?”
See what, I thought.
“Jack, Jack,” he said with delight, “We have a new power source forreading, and it’s free!”
I figured the bang on the head had loosened scar tissue in his brainfrom the seven concussions he had while playing hockey without a helmet.
Light for reading what, I wondered?
With that he jumped from the bed and chased the firefly, trapped it in hismassive hand and watched with delight as it flashed on and off and on and off.
He’s mad, I thought! He was grinning from ear to ear as he walked towardme. “Jack, we have to capture a mason jar full of these critters. What, I thought?
“We can use them as a light when we read,” he said.
Now I know he has lost it, I thought.
“Stuff them in a mason jar and shake the bottle whenever we want to read.If they’re frightened, they’ll glow all night long,” he said .
Without hesitation he slipped into his pants, opened the door, grabbed atropical fish net hanging on the wall (he used it for catching crustations for macroshots) and off he went. I was close behind.
I’ve watched him do crazy things, but watching him chase fireflies in themiddle of the night with a tropical fish net topped everything. Light after lighted
bug was snared and dropped into the Mason jar.
After an hour or so we returned to the RV, exhausted from the thrill of ourpursuit, and watched with amazement as the jar lit-up like a 60 watt bulb.
Call me crazy, or better yet call him crazy, but enterprising has got to be theBig Guy’s middle name.
He amused himself sitting quietly with his book, shake the jar, and read bythe light of the fireflies. When he was done reading he’d place the jar on the tablebeside the bed, fall asleep, and the lights within the jar would dim and eventuallygo out.
Each morning the jar was opened, the bugs released and, the next night theprocess began again.
I don’t want to say the Big Guy is cheap but his attempt to save a penny hadbeen taken to a new level.
Articles written by Bob Belliveau-Ferrin Lemieux