Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The engine roared to life! A fast shift and I was careening across the casino parking lot...a spray of sparks as the car lept the boulevard. Another shift, the tires hit the black top, screaming out their protest. A third shift, as I come off the first curve, the g-force settles me back into the butter-soft leather bucket, and yet another "chirp" where rubber meets road.

Man and machine, reacting as one, devouring the thin black ribbon of winding road that lay ahead.
A flash of uncertainty...wondering what my nemesis had in store for me next. Then the quiet confidence of my inner voice reminded me of a failed poisoning attempt, and machete wielding assassins that lay in my wake, unsuccessful in dismaying me from my mission.

Suddenly, another voice, familiar and welcome, yet strangely the tone seemed somehow annoyed. "Doug, Doug!" Not James. The road ahead faded and I found myself awakened in a darkened room, the first hint of daybreak creeping around window blinds.

"Marvin the cat has something cornered in the bathroom...a mouse...or bat...can't you hear that squeaking noise?" I listened intently, desperate to "not hear" anything and get back to my high performance ride and a night of danger and intrigue protecting "Queen and Country," but alas it was not to be. What I did hear was our teenage daughter Jessie stir, shuffle and sleepily ask Marvin to "scoot" as she made her way to the bathroom. Next came a scream and running footsteps! "A mouse just ran across my foot and into my room! OMG! OMG! Find him! Get him out!" Making my way to her room I wisely asked if she could describe him. "Any distinguishing features?" She was having trouble finding the humour in my request. "Little and grey and creeeeeeeepy," she wailed. "I think he was just a baby and probably hurt by Marvin's teeth and claws." At this point I'm thinking that this is mainly a recovery mission, and Brenda agreed, handing me just a mere napkin to retrieve him with.

I lay prone on the floor peering under Jessie's bed (the mouse's last known whereabouts). Gently probing through the typical teenage debris, when suddenly a flash of grey from within a discarded chip bag, and he was up and running right for me. Since mice are not normally man eaters, I can only assume that he was racing toward more sanctuary, and since he was grey, I'm sure the grey head before him seemed like perfect cover! A scuffle ensued, profanity's exclaimed, and mouse and man abruptly parted ways.

My sudden and hurried retreat from under the bed must have been less than graceful, but since the girls were screaming and running from the site of the attack, I think any squeamish or fearful behaviour on my part went largely unnoticed.

This was no injured baby mouse! This was a full grown adult male in his prime, full of vigor and fury! Not wanting to face the beast in an all out "him or me" confrontation, I decided to beat him at his own game, the very reason that he invaded our home, his quest for food. We generally keep a mouse trap set in the cold room this time of year, a kind of an early warning sentinel should our perimeter be breached (it seems to be the point of entry for the occasional interloper). But this being early in the year, and the creature so brazen as to make his way to the sleeping quarters of our troops, I decided a multi-pronged "shock and awe" retaliation best suited the circumstances.

I carefully planted the one trap from the cold room in Jessie's room, baited it with a piece of chewy good candy, and set off to the hardware store to buy more of the same. I guess the exertion of his struggles with "Marvin the Mouser," and his brief meeting with me under the bed, made this little fellow a bit peckish, because upon my return from the hardware store, there he was, bug-eyed and quite dead in the trap I had just set! A quick and decisive victory was mine!

Now I admit that this adventure pales next to anything that Ian Fleming could dream up in a book, or that I could conger up in a lucid dream, but it was still man and machine against a villain. Reality had me battling a little grey mouse with a $2 trap, while my dreams usually have me pitted against a super villain in a $190,000 Aston Martin. I suppose the theory is the same. "Shaken, not stirred? Yes, of course, as you wish, Mr. Moreau."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


It was a sunny, early May afternoon as I recall. My partner Brenda and I were diligently absorbed in the matters of  real estate sales (well that's how I remember it anyway). I must have momentarily looked up and away from my desktop, perhaps to unkink my work weary neck, when I caught a glimpse through the window of a somewhat weathered fishin' cap above a somewhat weathered face directly over an "Old Guys Rule" sweatshirt.

After some polite exchanges and  inquiries as to how Brenda was doing, there was of course, the usual sympathetic words about the trials she must face with not only having a business partner like me, but puttin' up with yours truly at home as well. Carl's conversation eventually swung from an indepth analysis of my work ethic (or lack thereof)  to the weather, to fishing, to fishing stories, to a fishing story about "this time of year" a couple of years back.

It was an intriguing story about what Carl called "ice out lakers." It seems that "these very days" each year there exists the exact conditions on a lake up north required to put massive lake trout "on the bite," as Carl would say. He then casually produced a set of  fishing regulations, which he just happened to have, and low and behold there was just such a specimen of that exact species on the front cover! It was at that moment that I realized that it was Carl that was on "the bite!"

I sat back and watched the master as he navigated the conversation from when is it that Doug actually works a full day, to when was it that the poor boy had a couple days off, to the inception of the idea that a couple of days right now would serendipitously coincide with "ice out lakers."

I forget just who said what, or who's idea it was, or if there was any begging involved on my part, but my "everlovin" graciously volunteered to take care of things in my absence, and the next day found Carl and I in his Dodge Ram, boat in tow, headed north, grinning like a couple of Cheshire Cats!

Now, day one of the expedition went good, maybe too good. The trip up and subsequent launch of the boat went off without a hitch. The boat ran like a dream! The "skipper," well, as the song goes, "he was brave and sure."

One reason he was so sure of himself  was that he once owned a camp on this lake, so the place was right, the time was right, he knew the shore to troll and the depth and speed to be at. I had my first fish on before I figured out the correct use of the downriggers! The next hour of that beautiful, sunny day brought three more lakers, each one larger than the last!

Such quick success, of course, brings arrogance in even the most modest of men, so the decision was made early on that today would be all "catch and release" and tomorrow we would keep one each, and in this way I could keep my promise to bring one home for Brenda. I doubt if she truly cared, but the idea stirred an instinct deep within my male psyche that I must hunt/fish and provide much the same as my male retriever "must" find a discarded plastic bottle before returning home each day from our morning foray! He doesn't need a plastic bottle any more than I needed the fish! And I don't mean to compare myself exactly to a 100 lb. canine, after all I am taller and have somewhat better manners and hygiene, well  hygiene anyway.

A truly charmed day came to an end that evening at the motel when all of the fresh air, excitement and enthusiasm of the day, coupled with a couple of celebratory refreshments, eased me into a deep restful sleep, the kind of sleep that sounds a lot like a McCulloch chainsaw chewing through a hard piece of oak. At least that's what I'm told anyway.

The next day came, and with it, the anticipation of easy victory, but despite our best efforts, the effects of a cold front moving through could not be denied. There was a heavy chop on the water, a relentless wind that buffeted our boat making trolling speed erratic, and even a big sturdy boat like our trusty Legend lurch and list. The rains came in just as we wisely pulled the boat from the water and began our journey home.

Recalling the experience now, we had an awesome time, one that I'm certain is not experienced by many. I'm thankful for that! And in the end I'd be lyin' if I said I didn't get to hoist a couple of "lakers."

Thursday, April 26, 2012


As a younger man, I recall finding the value in a job well done, the completion of a task, the satisfaction of repairing one's own possession's, with nothing but the most basic of tools, a little know how, a lot of ingenuity and an abundance of free time. All of this, coupled with a near complete absence of funds, made me a DYI guy rather than have someone far more qualified do the job right! As far as car repair goes I suppose I've done my share.

One of my earliest solo endeavors would have been the time I changed a set of springs at the age of 16 on a car that was at least 16 itself. This, of course, was done in the front yard of my Dad's house armed with just the most basic of tools and youthful enthusiasm on my side. The car was a Pontiac Stratochief. I, of course, called it "The Stratollac," reckoning, I guess, that people might confuse it for a Cadillac.

I bought her for $75.00 out of the back yard of an older couple (in those days that meant 40+ years) from Victoria Harbour. Inexplicably they had left her there to languish! There was little wrong with that car that a bit of mechanical repair and a lot of "bondo" and fibreglass couldn't fix. By the time I was done grinding and patching, both rear quarter panels from back door to tail lights were "of my own creation." The resultant weight, and  possibly my "spring repair job," made her a "low rider." I was truly ahead of my time and didn't know it!

A perhaps less than thorough, but much appreciated safety check by a friend of a friend, and a form of insurance known as "unsatisfied judgment," and I was driving! I loved that old car, and it loved me back. Sure, we had our occasional spats, but I learned that she just needed a little more attention than some. Fluid levels, performance loss, and faint but recurring noises, were not to be ignored. The plans of an enjoyable evening could be squashed at a moments notice if she sensed the slightest indifference from you! Sound familiar, fellas?

Anyyyways...back to cars. As we all know, getting and keeping  a car "on the road" is a little more complicated than that these days! Speaking of these days...it was just the other day that we were discussing the need for some brake work to be done on my wife's car when my stepson  Jeff mentioned that he had done lots of that sort of thing all the time on cars during an auto mechanics class in high school.

That's when I felt that pesky "youthful enthusiasm" well up in me and I found myself suggesting that we just take care of the job ourselves in the front yard! Just like the ole days, eh! We checked the weather and tomorrow's  promise was a mostly sunny six degree day, which sounded not bad if you didn't think too deeply into the effects of windchill and how much gusts of 35km/hr would influence the atmosphere on the ground, under a car next to ten acres of open fairgrounds.

By the time we finished that "little brake job" Jeff was near his "braking point." Frozen fingers struggled to disassemble and reassemble cold steel objects as the long hours had passed, lying in what was becoming a sand dune around the car. We had sand in nearly every orifice (boxers had nothin' on briefs that day). Through grit filled eyes, a grimace on his face, and a single tear on his sand stained cheek, Jeff compared this ordeal to changing a track on a tank on the roadside in Afghanistan.

I marvelled at how he could make that comparison since most of his battle experience, that I know of,  has been leading combat missions against Taliban strongholds from the comfort of my couch in our rec room, using only his thumbs to wreak havoc on the enemy!

As the car was finally nearing road worthiness once again, we pondered the degree of difficulties we had encountered. My suggestion was to blame the weather, but Jeff said that the trouble was due to the fact that he was not used to working on "older" cars! Huh? We bought this thing in 2008!! How friggin' new were these cars that you worked on? And how was it that they needed brake work?
Twentysomethings today all feel that "newer" is somehow better, and feel entitled to have all new things. This is totally foreign thinking to me! Especially when it comes to vehicles!
Everyone knows that it takes at least a decade of use before a car or truck fully develops it's character. Just take, for example, my dear old "Stratollac"...