Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
BULLS, BIRDS and BIKES
Not long after my luncheon with "I am a walking animal" Mata K, the transit system decided to go on what seemed to be an annual ON STRIKE campaign. That left me unable to get back and forth to my job at the hospital without the aid of friends with automobiles, or the use of my legs. I was working a swing shift and didn't relish the idea of walking the streets between 10 to 11 at night. The thought that someone might think that I was out there in pursuit of a different line of work would be an unpleasant interruption in my three mile journey to reach the switchboard where I might be able to help save a life or birth a child.
It came to my attention that a friend of a friend had 2 bicycles for sale and I was welcome to buy one. A nice used 10 speed would fit the bill nicely and for only $40. So I happily forked out the dinero. I always had a bicycle up until I was about 17 when I decided that I was too grown up for such a toy! Now I was 22 and was happy to be able to pedal to and from my work station with relative ease. Of course, once the transit strike was over I did go back to letting the streetcar wheels propel me around, I especially liked sitting in the seat right at the back because the swing effect was like that of a roller coaster going around a curve! However, over the next couple of years that bike took up the slack when the transit went down.
After a few years I decided that it was time to move on. Many friends had moved out to the west coast so that is where I headed. One of my friends, SS, had taken up with a man, FF, who lived in a log cabin up on a mountain just east of the Okanagan Valley. They were looking for someone to keep the place warm while they went down to Mexico for a month or so. There was no electricity or running water, but there were about 30 chickens and 1 very young bull named Burt. I talked another friend who had a 1958 VW bus to go with me and we drove across the country in the merry month of October. The bus had no heat so the passenger, mostly me, would sit on the bench seat scrapping the ice off the inside of the windshield as we travelled west. We got to the mountains south of Rock Creek and settled in with my friends, learned the ways of the outback and in late November the happy homesteaders left us city folk to tend the farm while they relaxed in sunny Mexico.
It was peaceful to say the least, but having none of the usual amenities certainly can keep one busy. Bread never tasted so good as when baked in a woodburning oven. That was the only cook stove. It also was the hot water reservoir for dishwashing, etc., as it had a large well/compartment. There was a franklin stove for providing heat during the night, but it was always cold by morning. The outhouse was about 300 yards away. FF had the innovative idea to cover the toilet seat holes with styrofoam so they were always warm. Not for the sanitary minded but extremely comfortable. It was an outhouse built for two which was puzzling, perhaps constructed for emergency use. The door to it was more like a gate because there was no top half to it. It provided a beautiful view of the mountains, but I liked to do my contemplations on the throne alone, often wondering just what I would do if a lynx, a bear or worse, a skunk were to show up.
Burt the bull lived out in a large field surrounded by a fence. Only trouble was that the well that provided all our water was right in the middle of this pasture. It was no modern well either, just a hole in the ground with with wood shored sides and a bucket on a rope. Fetching water was a twice, or thrice, daily ritual. Luckily I was still accustomed to the Canadian winters back then so, after piling on the usual 10 lbs. of 'ward off the cold' outerwear, I would trudge out into the snow covered field with bucket in hand. Now Burt was a feisty young bull, and as anyone familiar with farm animals would know, the bovine is incredulously curious, and always hungry in this particular case! After a couple of water hauling ventures, realizing that I just might end up at the bottom of this well if Burt continues to be butthead nosy like that, well, I needed a new water bearing strategy. So from that point on Burt's feeding time became synonymous with agua hauling ventures, and a pitchfork would be my constant companion.
One day Burt did break his bounds and off he trotted about 2 miles down the road to Eke's farm. So spring must be on its' way. It was now January and the rogue had romance on his mind! That little VW bus had to do the job of the shepherder/tow truck. Oh, what fun to zig zag through the snow with the greatest of unease, while the lusty young bovine was not very pleased. It would not do for us to have lost the bull while the land barron was away. So we journeyed back up the hill in short bursts of stuck and go.
So the snowbirds came back at the end of January to us, Burt, and about 25 chickens. 2 months and 5 chickens was not bad. After all that hard work required some meaty sustenance. We couldn't blame the entire loss on coyotes! I am hear to tell you though. The most disgusting thing was not the beheading of the bird after which it continues to leap about the place. No the most disgusting thing was the smell when removing all those feathers! Double yuck yuck! I will always be thankful for my local butcher after that!
My friend wanted to go to the Yukon after that and build an 8 by 10' log cabin. I said; "Have fun!" and headed off to the not so big city of Vancouver. It was time to go visit some of my less industrious but more industrial friends. A place where I could turn on the tap and run a bath. Where I could go to the local supermarket and get that chicken already plucked and quartered. I went into the woods, I survived, I conquered, and I ran like a marathoner into the modern world. That is where I met the man that would become my husband, my companion in outback adventure who would always bring me home to running water and indoor toilets.
I had wanted to get back to the old homestead not just to visit my friends but to partake of the feast that was formerly known as Burt the Bull. Alas, I was too late as it took about 8 months before I could return and he was already dinner times a kazillion. Probably a good thing because in some sort of quirky way I had actually developed an attachment to him, just like my grandad did to all his bovine on his dairy farm.
A few months after I got together with the man that would become my husband, we were at a party. One of the other guests at this soiree was the man, a psychiatrist, who had sold me that bicycle back in TO several years earlier. Turns out my husband had sold his two bicycles to this man for $20.00 before he moved to the west coast and made him promise that he would not resell the bikes for any more than that amount. When hubby found out that I had paid $40 for just one of those bicycles, he let the good doctor know just what he thought. It was amusing to see this psychiatrist grovelling like a bad dog. What goes around, comes around. Especially if it has to do with bicycles!