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RAMBLING ON
by Alan A Sandercott

Short story collection
85 pages. Perfect bound. 5" X 8".
First printing 2005

ISBN 0-9685413-4-8

[Out of Print]


 
  • Strange Visitors - Unwelcome visitors invade homestead.
  • The Dentist's Waiting Room - An old man with no patience has to wait.
  • And About Time Too - Finally, spring almost returns.
  • Something In The Bush - The discovery of creatures in the forest.
  • Earliest Childhood memory - Relates first memory as child.
  • Summer Vacation - Vacation? What summer vacation? I'm retired.
  • January In My Area - Coping with British Columbia winters.
  • Growing Pains - A haunting memory of a boy's adolecence.
  • The Good, The Bad, & The Tasty - Living with Flatulence in public.
  • Just A Walk In The Park - Diary of fishing trip to Tweedsmuir Park.
  • The Final Nine - A not so memorable round of golf.
  • Viking Influence - 1000 year-old Viking Experience still here.
  • A Night In The Bush - Father and son lost in the bush overnight.


  • NOTE: This previously published work is covered by copyright.
    No printing, copying or use by any means without written permission from the author.


     
    VIKING INFLUENCE    by Alan A Sandercott

           Did my wife's ancestors plunder and kill my ancestors? I can't help but wonder. I know that during the Viking era I had ancestors living in hamlets along the western coast of England and Scotland. They are believed to have been common folk; farmers from western Cornwall, farmers and coal miners from western Ayrshire. We know my wife's ancestors were Norwegian and Danish dating back a thousand years.

           History shows that Norway's Vikings sailed their longboats as early as the ninth century. Later the Vikings, or Norsemen (men from the north) as they were also known, conducted raids along the coasts of Scotland, England, and Ireland. Terror struck villagers fled at the sight of Viking ships appearing from the fog. Fearsome warriors with names such as Halvdan The Black, Erik Bloodaxe, and Bluetooth, swept ashore to plunder coastal villages. The shallow draft of their ships permitted raids far up into the inland rivers as well.

           The Vikings soon established settlements along the coast of Ireland. There is an old Irish prayer that reads in part, " . . . From the fury of the Northmen, 0 Lord deliver us." The city of Dublin apparently started out as a Viking stronghold back in the ninth century. From secure harbours such as Dublin the Vikings were able to raid and plunder the western coasts of England and Scotland. Whole villages were razed by fire and its inhabitants killed or taken as slaves to be sold in the Middle East. Were some of my ancestors among them?

           I have no doubt my ancestors felt the Viking Influence that played a major role in the future of the surrounding countries. England fell under the rule of Canute, King of England, Norway, and Denmark, in 1016. Under the hand of King William I, William The Conqueror, the churches of England were Normanized as well. Scandinavia was then the centre of civilization for northern Europe. I have a feeling that Viking influence still exists today, right here in my home.

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    SOMETHING IN THE BUSH    by Alan A Sandercott

           Imagine you're deep in the forest. It's early morning and you are following a narrow trail along side a mountain steam. The cool air is strangely quiet except for the sound of the water flowing over the rocks. Lush green grass and wild flowers cover the forest floor around you. Rays of early morning sunshine slice through the trees like glistening knives.

           Suddenly, you hear the faint rustle of leaves but there is no wind. You stop for a moment to survey your surroundings, listening intently. Silence. Satisfied you're alone, you resume your nature stroll.

           Once more the rustling of leaves grabs your attention. Again you stop in your tracks to listen but hear nothing. You wonder if your mind is playing tricks perhaps. No, there it is again, from across the stream. Your imagination kicks into high gear. Forests are home to wild animals. Your breathing quickens as your eyes scan the dense growth.

           Then something moves, and through the morning fog you see two forms, their faces peering out from behind the thick shrubbery. Your heart is racing, your instinct is to retreat but your legs won't respond. The intruder's descriptions defies logic. Shivers run the length of your spine as your eyes remain transfixed.

           Long tense moments pass until one of the creatures steps into the clear. It grunts what you interpret as a warning. It appears to be a tiny man, but grotesque looking. His head is covered with long scraggly black hair, huge ears, big black eyes, wrinkled skin, a long crooked nose and menacing looking teeth. He appears to have only four fingers and his bare feet, now embedded in the damp earth, likewise have only four toes. A few feet behind, a tiny woman of equally hideous features cowers in his shadow, less anxious of detection. You can only stare in disbelief.

           The forest you're exploring is in Norway and the strange creatures you've discovered are the legendary Norwegian Trolls. They are believed to be supernatural beings that have existed in Norway since the time of the ice age, making their homes in the depths of the forests. Regardless of their hideous looks, trolls are never the less sensitive, intelligent, loving and gentle. Norwegian folklore states that if you travel through their dark forests during twilight hours you are never alone, the trolls are there with you!

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    JUST A WALK IN THE PARK    by Alan A Sandercott

           Shortly after seven on a clear cold morning the three of us set off on the first leg of our trip into Tweedsmuir Park. It was to be the fishing trip of all time. There's only two ways into the park; float plane and boat, we chose the later. We had arrived at the Andrew Bay boat launch the night before and spent the night in a motorhome.

           After a struggle getting the boat into the water we proceeded to load onboard all the supplies required to sustain us over the next four days. Jerry cans of gas decorated the bow of the boat, sleeping bags, clothes, fishing gear and food crammed to the gunnels. Seating space was at a premium in the 16' fiberglass boat. If you forget anything - you do without.

           The run down to Chikamin Bay took longer than expected thanks to gusting wind and choppy waters on Ootsa Lake, Alcan's massive power reservoir. The lake was never logged prior to flooding in the 1950's. Thousands of ghostly tree snags protrude from the water, all capable of impaling the boat hull of an unwary navigator. Extreme care is required.

           Lake levels differ between Ootsa and Eutsuk Lakes which requires the need to portage overland, no easy task with a fully loaded boat. The BC Parks Department maintains a flatbed cart that travels on miniature rails. We ran our boat over the submerged cart, and then slowly pulled the cart out of the water while securing the boat to the cart. A series of hand driven winches exist to pull the cart up to the top of the grade. We had the foresight to bring along a power saw winch to simplify the task. The trip down the other side of the portage is accomplished thru gravity and a braking system on the cart. Once in the water on the other side, we unsecured our boat and floated out into St. Thomas Bay, the northern end of Eutsuk Lake.

           A warm afternoon sun and favourable wind made for a pleasurable trip down Eutsuk Lake. We arrived at Jim Van Tine's Camp in Pondosy Bay with plenty of daylight remaining. It took several trips to pack our gear and supplies from the boat to the cabin with its rustic little one hole biffy out back in the trees.

           Supper was the next order of business. One cooks, the other two clean up the mess. A bottle of rye whiskey appears from one of the bedrolls. Temperatures drop in the park when the sun goes down and nothing warms the body better than a good shot of rye, or two, or . . .

           "Okay, who farted?" A question posed many times during the three nights in camp, usually followed by one muffled laugh and two gasping groans.

           Anyone brave enough to crawl out of their sleeping bag to go out for a pee didn't travel too far, as evidenced by the damp spots on the ground outside the door in the mornings. The knowledge there were Grizzly Bear back in the bush was constant on our minds.

           Breakfast came early each morning. A certain unsuspecting member of the group learned the meaning of the term, "Glacial waters", when he ran bare-assed into the lake for a refreshing dip, only once.

           The days we spent in the boat, hour after hour feeding fish with our best tackle, teasing them, and occasionally catching one. Nice fish, Like the ten pound rainbow my brother caught. The kind of fish one can brag about back home. Then there was the exchange of money, the bets on first fish, the biggest and the most. On this particular trip the same individual took all three, something I complained about all the way home.

           Then came the morning we had to pack up and leave, never an easy thing to do. Convinced we had plenty of time we made a quick round of the island for one last crack at fishing. That's when the biggest was caught. By lunchtime we were at the south end of the portage propelling our boat thru unusually shallow water with poles. It had begun to rain, and wouldn't you know it, Murphy's Law ensured the cart was on the other end of the tracks!

           The run back up Ootsa Lake in the rain was uneventful till we reached the boat launch and found a tugboat in the way. Then imagine our responses when we discovered lights inside the motorhome had been left on. Dead battery and miles from civilization. Fortunately, with the aid of improvised tools we were able to remove the boat battery and start the motorhome's engine. But it didn't end there. We next discovered backing a boat trailer down a steep ramp with a motorhome to be highly frustrating. To make matters worse, the rain was making the ramp slippery. Just as the boat was coming up out of the water the motorhome's tires started spinning! Luckily, the weight of two men standing on the back bumper was just enough to retain traction and get us out of there.

           The final straw came when we rolled down the hill at Southbank only to see the ferry pulling away from the dock. It's a good thing the whiskey bottle didn't survive our stay in the park. There was nothing to do but wait for another ferry.

           All in all quite a trip. Once home all that remained was to shower away days of stink and catch up on sleep in an odorless environment.

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    JANUARY IN MY AREA    by Alan A Sandercott

           It's 6:20 pm and from the comfort of my easy chair I watch BCTV's Evening News on my widescreen TV. Tony Parsons is reporting on the extreme weather conditions worldwide: northern Europe battered by devastating storms with rivers flooding their banks, England deluged with wind and rain resulting in flooded villages, extreme drought throughout arid regions of the world, wild fires in southern Australia, California experiencing record rainfalls and flooding from a year's water in ten days, massive snow storms in the mountains, our Canadian prairies suffering bitter cold, our east coast bracing for yet another colder than normal winter, our west coast's lotus land buried in snow drifts, thousands of homes left in the dark without power and water . . .

           Safely at home I snuggle deeper into my chair and adjust the blanket covering my feet, pondering the question, "What the hell is the world coming to?" Seems each year I'm able to remark on how the winters locally are becoming milder and milder, thanks in part to the good 'ol Pineapple Express blowing our way from Hawaii, but currently lost at sea.

           It's easy to blank out abnormal weather patterns around the world when you're not personally experiencing them. However, there's more than the speculation of global warming at work outside my window.

           Here on beautiful Francois Lake in central British Columbia we have another ace up our sleeves, a lake that doesn't freeze. The open water out front has a positive affect on our local temperatures. At this time of year we are constantly 10C to 15C warmer than surrounding communities. During the night fog rises from the lake to blot out the stars and provide a blanket of protective warmth. Each morning the sun burns away the fog and further warms the water, at least that's what we tell outsiders.

           What really keeps Francois Lake from freezing are migratory birds and local initiative. Each year large flocks of trumpeter swans, canada geese and all sorts of ducks pause to rest and feed on our lake on their way south. And each year large numbers of swans are caught and their flight feathers carefully plucked, halting their migration. Being birds of a feather, the ducks and geese remain behind with the swans. Nothing deters ice better than large flocks of swimming birds plying the waters of Francois Lake creating waves and warming the water with their bodies.



           To ensure the feathered flotillas keep swimming, feeding stations have been established up and down the lake. Following a strict schedule, residents along the lake scatter the tons of food donated by wildlife agencies over the surface of the water. The constant procession of swimming flocks from feeding station to feeding station is enough to keep the lake surface agitated and free of ice.

           A secondary benefit, one not originally planned on, was the ducks and their ability to dive. Any of the food that sinks to the bottom is quickly retrieved by the ducks. Each time they return to the surface they draw the warmer waters up with them, further enhancing the surface temperatures.

           The action of the ducks did not go unnoticed by the Inland Ferries Corporation. Their aging bubble systems used to prevent ice buildup around the two ferry docks was overly expensive to maintain. Following a few preliminary tests with tame ducks from a nearby farm, a pilot project was established with great success. However, due to budget cutbacks by the BC Government, the tame ducks had to be replaced with wild stocks. This unfortunately interfered with the numbers of ducks required to navigate the lake as intended.

           After considerable discussion between concerned lake residents and the Ferry Corporation it was agreed that the smaller fish ducks would be used at the docks while the mallard sized ducks with their larger displacement would remain part of the lake fleet. This worked well, especially for the Ferry Corporation because the smaller ducks ate less which was inline with the Corporation's meager budget.

           A similar program was established on a nearby lake using beavers. During the summer large numbers of beavers were trapped live from other areas and transported to the lake. During the winter, residents would systematically cut down poplar trees along the beaches. The beavers would then dissect the trees and float the braches back to their lodges, thereby creating a constant wave action on the water and preventing ice formation. The program worked well for several years until the beavers managed to dam all the creeks and flood the lakeshore properties, contaminating everyone's drinking water with beaver fever.

           Tomorrow morning as the sun burns through the fog, I'll not only benefit from the warmer temperatures but also the beauty of swans, geese and a variety of ducks swimming our lake. And when I bundle up to go outside, it won't be to shovel snow left from some freak blizzard. No, I will be taking my turn spreading free bird seed on the open water of Francois Lake. I like to think I'm doing my part to keep Mother Nature happy during January in my area.

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    STRANGE VISITORS    by Alan A Sandercott

           They were without a doubt the ugliest, most foul smelling visitors we have ever had the misfortune of meeting. They suddenly appeared on our doorstep one day completely uninvited and definitely unwelcome.

           From whence they came remains a mystery, but we soon discovered their destructive intent. Private property boundaries or the concept of trespass seemed foreign to them. It quickly became evident these intruders were setting up camp in the trees around our home, and worse yet, we were powerless to stop them. So we did what anyone else would have done, we reported their presence to the local authorities. But instead of the investigators we expected, we heard nothing in reply.

           Days passed into weeks and the intrusive commune grew at an incredible rate. It was during this time that we suspected this invading army wasn't restricted to ground travel. There actually appeared to be an airborne flight component. Also, our scrutiny revealed different generations or family units that were propagating at an alarming rate.

           Feeling helpless, yet unwilling to stand by and do nothing, we dispatched pleas for assistance to both the Federal and Provincial Governments. We waited impatiently. Surprisingly, it was the feds from their elusive cloak and dagger bunkers in Ottawa that responded first. They wanted pictures! Didn't they believe us? Were our visitors beyond their scope of reality?

           The following day I took my trusty new digital camera and set about to capture images of our strange visitors. It proved more difficult than I first anticipated. Getting close enough to photograph such nauseating entities proved more of a task than I first anticipated. Just the sight of them up close was repulsive, sending eerie shivers down my spine. I have to admit, however, that as photographic subjects, they were most cooperative by remaining motionless during the whole process.

           I wasted no time in emailing the pictures off to the super sleuths in Ottawa, proving beyond a doubt that we had a serious breach of trespass. I again expressed concern for our safety. What we received in response was again not what we expected. There would be no investigation, no onsite assistance, only a few words contained in their email; "Chrysomeliidae", or more precisely, "Chrysomela interrupta". What the hell did that mean? It sounded alien, like something from a Superman movie. Would we need some form of Kryptonite to defend ourselves against these invaders?

           Follow up emails to Ottawa clarified things a little but did nothing to reassure us with a solution to our ever increasing dilemma. This hands-off position was soon backed up by officials of the Provincial Government. They both made it very clear that, while they sympathized with us, we were on our own to wage battle with our now hated foe. "Don't worry", they both told us. They inferred our so called visitors would be susceptible to a whole host of deadly parasitical diseases that in all likelihood would wipe them out.

           We couldn't wait. We decided to treat them like any other unwanted pest. We would raise havoc with their way of life by disrupting their food chain and destroying their temporary living quarters.

           With the assistance of some local loggers we started removing the very trees in which these leeches were seeking refuge. Little sympathy was felt by us as, one by one, the huge poplar and cottonwood trees crashed to the ground. Eighty-seven trees in all were sacrificed to the cause. The aftermath of destruction soon disappeared beneath the snows of approaching winter; a winter we hoped would catch the invading horde ill-prepared.

           Today there are not as many strange visitors as there once was, not on our property at any rate. I'd like to think our inhospitable actions drove them away, but in reality they simply moved on to greener pastures, greener trees with the lush green leaves the "Chrysomela interrupta" or "Cottonwood Beetles" love so much.

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    THE DENTIST'S WAITING ROOM    by Alan A Sandercott

           I'm here against my will. I can think of a lot of places I'd rather be than in the cramped waiting room of our local dentist. I promptly report to the receptionist, my senior's Gold Card in hand, hoping seniors get preferential treatment. She ignored the card.
    "Please have a seat, it'll only be a few moments," she advises with a pleasant smile.

    I scan the waiting room. Naturally it's filled with mothers and kids with runny noses tearing around out of control. I hate these places. I'll probably end up with the flu or some other dammed disease. I head towards the far corner of the waiting room, and then intentionally dump my coat into the next chair to protect my space. I check my watch; ten minutes early.

    For the next while I just sit and stare into space. There's a play area in one corner with toys and stuff to entertain kids, but it doesn't. All the kids do is squabble and throw things around. I check my watch; still a couple minutes to wait.

    The door to the inner-sanctum opens; at least that's what I call it. On the other side of that door is a long dark hallway lined with little open-door rooms for everyone to see. What ever happened to privacy? A lady with thick glasses and wire-like hair sticks her head out and calls a name. One of the mothers grabs her kid and disappears through the door. I check my watch; they're late. When I cast a querying look towards the receptionist she pretends not to notice me.

    Suddenly, one of the brats throws a toy. I have to move fast to avoid wearing it in the face. "Excuse me," I say, attempting to catch his mother's attention. "Excuse me!" I say again, only louder. When she looks over my way I ask, "Would you mind watching your kid? I don't appreciate things being thrown at me."
    She looks at me with that 'what's your problem' look. "He's just being a little boy," she explains.
    "Well he's not at home now," I scowl and place the toy on the table beside me. I'm not giving it back to him. I check my watch: right on the button.

    When the door to the back opens again I'm ready to get up, but it's not my name the woman calls out. On the bright side, another kid disappears through the door kicking and screaming. I know how he feels.

    More time passes as I stare around the room. A little girl walks right up and stares at me, making me nervous. Finally I ask, "What?"
    "My name is Mandy," she says.
    I look around the room hoping her mother will call her. "That's nice," I say.
    "I'm going to see the dentist. Are you going to see the dentist too?"
    I nod.
    "Do you have holes in your teeth? I have a hole in my teeth," she says, and then opens her mouth real wide as if I cared. "My mom says I eat too much candy. Are you allowed to eat candy?"
    I nod, wishing she would go away.
    "Can you take your teeth out to brush them? My granny can take her teeth out. Can you take your teeth ―"
    "Mandy, come over here," her mother finally calls to her.

    I check my watch; now they're late. This time I get up and walk over to the receptionist's window. "Excuse me," I ask, and then wait until she's ready to acknowledge me. "I'm still waiting," I say, tapping my watch.
    "It'll only be another few minutes, sir."
    I have that look on my face that says I don't believe you as I return to my seat.

    Suddenly the street door opens and a little old native man fills the opening. The receptionist smiles and mouths some sort of greeting. He's obviously a regular customer. There are other vacant chairs but he heads straight for the one next to me. It's not that I don't like Indians; I just don't like strangers in general. I don't look up, hoping he will move on, but no.
    "Can I sit here?" he asks, staring down at me through sad eyes buried in wrinkled skin.
    Reluctantly I remove my coat from the chair.
    He displays a lot of effort in sitting, like he's crippled with arthritis or something. Finally, he settles into the chair and lets out a muffled sigh of relief. I reach over and pick up a sport fishing magazine. August/September 2001. The magazine is so old the tattered cover is faded. "You'd think with the money dentists get paid they could afford some newer magazines, wouldn't you?" I comment to the man next to me.
    He says nothing, just smiles, displaying a single gold tooth surrounded by an assortment of darkened eroded teeth.
    I thumb through the magazine, starting from the back cover, a habit I know bothers some people but I could care less.

    I check my watch. This is getting ridiculous. Again I get up and head for the receptionist's window. She has that trapped animal look on her face when she sees me coming and has no place to hide. "This is getting ridiculous," I tell her in a stern voice. "I've been sitting here for almost twenty minutes."
    "I'm sorry, sir," she says consolingly, "but the doctor was a little late getting back from lunch."
    "You noticed I was here on time," I remark, shaking my head and giving her my best sarcastic look.

    When I return to my seat the old man has picked up the magazine I was reading. "Do you mind?" I ask expectantly, reaching for the magazine as I drop back into the uncomfortable chair. The man says nothing but I can see he's annoyed.
    "Why do they give you an appointment and then totally ignore it?" I ask, like he's capable of giving me a reasonable explanation. He ignores me and stares the other way.
    If I didn't hate the dentist's chair so much I'd have the rest of my teeth hauled out and get false teeth, then I could brush them like granny. Plus I'd never have to go thought this crap again.

    Eventually, the door opens again, and again I prepare to get up. This time I'm not surprised when it's not my named called out. However, I'm surprised, even annoyed when the old man beside me gets up. So I get up as well; only I head over to see that receptionist. "I was here before that man," I tell her.
    "Well his appointment was before yours, sir."
    "That means he was late. I was here on time. I should get to go first."
    "I'm sorry, sir. But we have to follow the order in the appointment book."
    "So the appointment time doesn't matter then," I remark in a sarcastic voice.

    All eyes are on me as I make my way back into my corner. Within a few minutes two more kids come in off the street. Their mother, who also has a baby in her arms, accompanies them. Naturally, the baby is screaming its head off. The two kids head straight for the toys and are fighting within seconds. I'm giving serious consideration to escaping the madness by leaving when the door to the back opens and the hygienist sticks out her head and gives me the nod. Thank God! I never thought I'd actually be happy to see a dentist's chair.

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    NOTE: This previously published work is covered by copyright.
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