ghosts

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There are ghosts everywhere. In the trees and clouds, between mountains, deep in the holler, along the coolies beside the creek, overgrown tangled in willow, littered with deadfalls: each and every overhead cliff, an ancient snag ready and able to hang the guilty.

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Not that I believe in them. Ghosts I mean.

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Most are wondering around. Possibly lost. They don’t say much. Nor me back to them. A courteous nod is about it. Most of the times they are surprised, as I, to have run into each other.

Long ago they’d nudge me awake. My mother used to want to know what they were wearing. I used to be afraid at first. I’d listen to the radio until I was asleep. She would ask, was he wearing an army uniform, a plaid shirt, a tam? Don’t be afraid she’d say. They’re not here to hurt you.

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They’re here to tell you something, she’d say.

I didn’t believe.

The ghosts kept appearing, in the creek bottoms. At night they were among the stars. I’d feel them go through me, in a rush, taking my breath into the sky above the crags.

We got used to each other. They don’t talk, but sometimes I will. I tell them I don’t believe. Then tell them the creek is low, the snow will be early, there is a moose in the upper basin that comes out in the morning to walk the slough, it better keep it’s head down until the end of hunting season.

Animals curve where they shouldn’t. Same as people. Ghosts blend in. Once you see them you will always see them. 

If you believe in that stuff.

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harvest moon

RCE_1129This one is lucky I traded my rifle for a camera.

There is a time you realize everything you thought was big isn’t really.

The bush around our house was thick. It was built between town, the train tracks and the lake. The bush was overgrown. I thought it could hide just about anything. Indians would get their liquor and walk over the bank. They would fuck and fight. Laugh and cry. Freeze to death, at times just die. Sometimes they would smash our forts. Young guys mostly, before pure sorrow took over their souls and made them drunks.

_LME8594Reaching the creek bottom.

In the trees, we drank their stashed wine and thumbed through Penthouse magazines, found behind the bookstore. At night if there was a fight in the house I’d escape into those trees. I’d break branches off fir and bury myself under moss. No need for a fire, every branch accounted for and smoke gives your position away.

Even now, while in the bush, it becomes my whole world. It’s a downfall really, when the Royal Group is as far away as France. When the distance across the Kootenay is equivalent to the span of the Atlantic.

_LME8589A cathedral, the only thing missing is a preacher, thank God!

Walking the mountains is awarding, regardless of illusion, the colours at this time of year are vibrant. A trout on the line renders the chill forgotten.

It’s not the biggest world, but I can still get lost in it.

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Palliser

RCE_0479Yellow Columbine.

Lisa and I were kindly invited to the 15th Anniversary gathering of a business we once owned.

We started Palliser Printing & Publishing in 1986. Lisa and I were in our early twenties with a baby on the way.

We sold the company in the summer of ’03 to Dee and Rod Conklin from Calgary.

Their 15th Anniversary has made me reminisce about the early days of the company.

I remember it being a lot of long hours and hard work.

The print shop was a mess of paper, presses, photocopiers, computers, an old arc plate burner, a darkroom complete with vertical camera for composing film, to later, be stripped on one of the several light tables. The smell of ink was always in the air. We survived a fire and a flash flood. Not unscathed, but we survived.

Later we moved to better quarters. For every step forward we made, we were never sure how we were going to pay for it. It is like the old saying, ‘build your parachute while falling to earth.’

Often we had bills at the end of the month that exceeded our bank account. The poorest we ever were was when we were the busiest. We juggled.

Yet, our children came to work with us. They had a place to play in the back shop. A cozy couch. They helped out. Built forts in the broken down cardboard.

The business was lucrative enough to allow us to buy a house. Our kids were in figure skating, dance and hockey. We were able to afford dental care for them.

Sometimes it was a balancing act. Lisa often worked the front with a baby on her hip. I always felt bad about that. There is no maternity leave when you own the business.

We were lucky. Since then I’ve worked at a few places. We have never made what it would take to raise a family at todays prices. Not even close.

Everything we have is because of that first business we started when Kelsie was in Lisa’s belly. When things seemed to be changing in a flash. When I had plenty of youth, energy and anger to see any job through.

Now it’s different. Those were good days. Now I’m glad to be a Grandpa making minimum wage, crossing logs gingerly, tilting glasses and nodding head to read the fine type.

Congratulations to Dee and Rod on their 15th Anniversary owning Palliser.

story time

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Out of my element tonight. Without my usual brand but with a mix of coloured bottles. Start with a Henry Weinhard’s Blue Boar Pale Ale. 

the boys were rolling off mt king edward
down schofield creek sliding over gumbo
raspberry devils club and birch trees
flying by the cockpit windows.

there was little george, rip and taylormade
swift was driving the 75 plymouth
gran fury station wagon.

green with brown vinyl wood paneling
chrome details hanging off
hub caps missing hood tied down
with a rope.

the perfect hunting vehicle
the carpet was torn out
with a blood stain in the back
from deer hunts gone past
little george said it was from
deflowering virgins.

The Pale Ale was pretty damn good, not a lot of skunk that usually defines these high end brews. To damn bad I only have one. Now I’m moving onto the Henry Weinhard’s Classic Dark Premium Lager. I’m sure this one will not be as accessible.

they hadn’t seen any deer
but shot their rifles anyway
they had been drinking beer
since morning and now it was
getting dark.

the old 75’s headlights were the shits
little george was pissed out of his head
and went to lay down in the back
bumping around with the spare
slurring and farting his way to dreamland.

the fury was all over the road
then a thump and bang
taylormade yelled we hit somethin
rip said it was a man swift hit the brakes
little george lurched in the back seat
started to snore
they were thirty miles from town.

three empty beer tins fell out when swift opened the door
they could see nothing it was fully dark
swift jumped back in backed up and shone the
shitty headlights into the ditch.

i see him
yelled rip
they scrambled tripping down the bank
the man turned out to be a big beige cougar
deader than a door nail.

a big bastard they wrestled the cat up the bank
and loaded him in beside little george
the cougars tongue was out
little george snored.

it was a relief they hadn’t killed anyone
swift was going to have him stuffed
they all cracked a fresh beer
and headed towards town.

The Classic Dark is gone. Tasted like burnt toast covered in molasses. But not bad. The stuff was made in Hood River, Oregon. Much more accessible than I thought it would be. I was told my poetry was the shits by a guy who introduced himself as a writer. Yes I said. He said proudly that it just ain’t accessible to everybody. Well, fuck him, I’m going to speed the drinking thing up and switch to whiskey.

they hit the outskirts
stopped at uncle ronnie’s roadhouse
where even squares can have a ball
parked out front little george was still snoring
taylormade thought he heard him growling.

they headed in drank 3 jugs
swift hit on the waitress to no effect
they wobbled back out to the plymouth
little george was still sleeping
but one problem
the cougar wasn’t dead anymore
it had shredded the seats
bits of foam were everywhere
the cat was wide eyed pacing
scratching at the virgin blood.

The whiskey tastes good and there’s no fear I’ll run out before this story is finished.

little george was snoring
foam moved around his nose on exhale
the cat was low ears back
and moved up on the drunken little george
it’s nuts hung on the side of his face
he was a big bastard.

i hope george doesn’t wake up said rip
in a fit of bravery swift swung the
gate and the cougar lept into the night
crossed the road from uncle ronnie’s neon
and disappeared into the bush.

it was a relief
the boys kept looking
into the darkened ditch
little george woke up
grabbed a rifle from the front seat
and shot a hole in the ceiling of
the 75 gran fury station wagon
swift, rip and taylormade hit the dirt
little george had foam in his hair
said he had a shit dream then
slurred what the fuck happened to
my upoholstery.

swift said we were going
to ask you the same
that last virgin must have been a real wildcat
a cougar even.

they piled in
swift drove
heading straight
towards town.