Monday, 25 July 2016


This post is going to be very short and sweet. My blogspot has recently crossed the 10,000 readership mark and is continuing to climb. It seems like only yesterday that I wrote my first post but that was over four years ago. Writing has been one of my passions and the only thing I enjoy as much as writing is sharing my stories with others; more specifically, You, my readers.

Thank you for stopping in to sample my stories and leave the occasional comment. Please feel free to drop in anytime. I have more stories in the works but I also have to admit that I've been very busy preparing to reintroduce my first novel: Lottery, plus a smaller story (I think they call it a novella) entitled: Family Reunion. I'll introduce you to both of them when the time comes. In the meantime, browse the stories and feel free to comment.

Thanks again. G.

Saturday, 21 May 2016


One of the trucking communities worst fears is that of reporting to the scales. Some will insist that it slows their progress down which might be somewhat legitimate but there's always the fear of being caught overweight and either being given a heavy (no pun intended) fine or being taken right off the road. But the scales are a fact of life and being properly loaded makes the road safer for everyone. But there are those in the trucking community who might argue that point.

Coutts, Alberta, and Sweetgrass, Montana, are two communities that comprise a major port of entry for Canada and the United States. Interstate 15 comes up all the way from the southern part of California and Highway 4 joins it on the north side of the border. For many years after the war, the corridor from Lethbridge to Coutts was free of so-called chicken coops. Of course, if you were headed south and weren't planning to get rid of some cargo in Sweetgrass, Sunburst, or Four Corners, you were likely to get waylaid just on the north side of Shelby. However, you could exit I-15 at Four Corners, itself, head west through Kevin and onto Cutbank then swing back and rejoin the I-15 at Shelby. But the Canadian side was rather devoid of scales, with the exception of one that would stop you just south of Calgary on Highway Two. As time went by someone decided to set up a scales just north of Coutts.

Now, even back in the 60's the highway was divided about three miles due north of Coutts, and continued that way all the way through to the border crossing. They must have planned to put in a scale between the two stretches of blacktop because when the installation went forward that scale was planted right in the dead center of everything; they couldn't have planned it better. Access from the north or southbound traffic was easy, with a long stretch of asphalt for each direction. Note that I said easy access. If you weren't paying attention, you could find yourself taking the family car in to get weighed; more than one motorist caught himself on that stretch of pavement and could only imagine the laughing and finger pointing from those who saw him make that wrong turn.

Back in the 60s the scales facility amounted to little more than the scales itself. The platform was outside and a tiny wooden structure housed the beam and kept the operator out of the elements. The scale house also provided a counter where a trucker could fill out the necessary forms needed to obtain a permit (in addition to getting written up on an overweight citation). From the outside the structure resembled either a tiny cottage or a unit from numerous motels that dotted the outskirts of almost any town.

Walt was a fun-loving individual. He enjoyed life to its fullest, especially when it included copious quantities of spirits. He loved his booze. Some of the temperance types might have hinted that Walt was an alcoholic but those who knew him well, knew that he was just a partier and loved to get feeling good. The downside of it was that he got behind the wheel and attempted to drive home when the party was over. If there could ever be an upside to driving while under the influence you could say that Walt drove very slowly--almost creeping--toward home.

Well, Walt had been to Milk River and on the way home, stopped at Art's place; or maybe Art's brother, Al's. For all we know it could have been both of them because they both consumed whiskey by the case. Anyways Walt stopped in to say hi and one of the brothers responded by offering Walt a drink--or five. The hours passed, the whiskey flowed, and the stories abounded, but like so many parties, this one had to end. So Walt bade the brother/brothers good-night and ambled out to his old reliable '56 Ford sedan and proceeded to drive home.

It was late winter or early spring, the skies had grown overcast and it had started to snow. At times the snow was falling heavily enough that the snowflakes, reflecting the light from the twin headlight beams of the car, tended to restrict Walt's visibility. His condition didn't help but undaunted, and also knowing the way home, he made steady progress down the highway. He crossed the railroad tracks and took note of the sign indicating a curve ahead where the highway would change its course to an easterly direction for two miles before curving south into the customs. Walt's farm was east of Coutts on the 500 road. Another mile and he would turn left. He watched for the next sign.

A Customs officer had just completed his evening shift and was busy brushing the snow off his car when he heard the crash. He quickly went back inside and told the duty officer to phone the police then he headed back out and drove up the highway. He was headed west slowly, looking for any telltale signs of a crash but found nothing. That was kind of strange because he heard something, and he was positive it came from the highway. However, finding nothing, he finally decided to call off the search and let the police continue. Following the sign warning truckers to STOP AND REPORT TO SCALES, he turned off the highway with the intention of turning back in the direction of Coutts. As he approached the tiny scale house from the east he began to notice that something was wrong.

The wall next to the scale platform itself didn't seem quite straight. In fact it appeared that the entire building wasn't straight. He drove closer and noticed a red glow in the swirling snow. He reached the house and stopped abruptly.

Barely protruding from the west side of the scale house were the taillights of a car. The car itself was almost completely inside the house; the only thing that caused the car to come to a complete halt and not bury itself was when its front bumper hit the steel scale post. That was lucky because the beam was less than an inch from the miraculously undamaged windshield and was pointed directly at the driver. The officer could see some movement from inside the car. He managed to gain access to the passenger's side and get the door open.

There was Walt, about twenty-three sheets to the wind still sitting behind the wheel. He seemed almost oblivious to what had just happened. "Where in the hell did that house come from?" he slurred, "I was driving home, minding my own business and all of a sudden, this house appears, in the snow. I thought there's no house in the middle of the road and must've been seeing things so I kept on going..."

Little did he know...

Over the next few weeks, the scale house was replaced with a more substantial unit, eventually to be replaced with a fully modern terminal and warehouse facility. Walt's car was repaired and he would drive it--more sober from now on--for many more years before his eyesight would fade and eventually terminate his driving for good. But Walt would stay on and continue enjoying a drink until he was finally called home sometime in his 90s. I just hope that St. Peter opened those gates wide so Walt wouldn't run into them...  

Sunday, 24 April 2016


One of the problems with living out in the country is the hazard of being away from emergency services. We hear all the time about a fire starting in someone's home and by the time the fire department arrives, about all that's left to do is try to keep the fire from spreading and to push the charred remains into the now opened cellar and fill the hole in. Begin again in a slightly different location. There was a couple of occasions on the old ranch where we had some devastating fires.
Back in '59 the barn burned down with much the same results as the aforementioned situations. Some time after the place was sold, fire broke out in the old shop and leveled the place. At that time the fire department didn't need to control the spreading as it was raining a deluge out there. The worst was the early fall of 2012 when a fire that started in a combine about nine miles to the west of the old ranch. There was a high wind blowing at the time and the fire headed east right into what was left of the ranch.

The barn that replaced the one lost in '59 was lost again. The corrals and the outbuildings also succumbed to the fire storm; the only buildings that were saved were the main house and garage, and a house that Dad built in around '67 for a hired man and his wife. Oh, and the massive trees that surround the main house survived with only a temporary loss of color. But there was a time many years before the first barn fire that could've ended up as a disaster.

Winters in the Chinook Belt are by nature easy to take. No real deep-freezes unless you consider that 104 day cold snap in the winter of '69 when the temperature never rose above zero (Fahrenheit) until almost spring. True we can get those Siberian Expresses that float way up above the polar ice cap and drop down on us causing the temperatures to plummet below zero for upwards of three weeks. It's kind of nasty, especially when you have to venture out every day to look after and feed cattle.

The ranch was reasonably mechanized. That is to say that we had means, other than horse and wagon, to feed the cattle. We had trucks that could be coaxed into life fairly easily--unless the block heaters weren't working or someone forgot to plug them in--and when the snow got too deep, Dad would simply fire up the wheeled tractor or crawler and hitch it to the hay sled to deliver feed.

One bright sunny day, in the very early fifties, a day that turned out to be far from mild, Dad ventured out from the warm confines of the old ranch house to look after his means of providing said old ranch house with the means to continue giving the warm confines. Simply put, he headed out to feed the cattle. It was cold out, the fourth or fifth day where the mercury just simply hid, shivering in that bulb on the bottom of the thermometer; it was so cold that the brass monkeys were considering careers in hairdressing. It was almost as cold as JC's ex-wife's side of the bed.

There was a lot of snow on the ground, and where the cattle were holed up, passage by truck was hazardous in that there was a good chance that there would be more time spent shoveling the truck out of a snowbank than feeding the cows. A standard tractor was nearly as risky but that's where the crawler came in. Fire up the D-2 Cat, hitch it up to the sleigh and head out. It was next to impossible to get the Cat stuck.

The Cat was in the metal clad machine shed. Dad went out to the shed, slid the doors open and prepared to start the crawler. Now I don't know if it's just me, or Dad, or all of us who venture outside to go into an unheated building in the dead of winter, but it seems that the interior of a typical machine shed is at least twice as cold as it was outside. Dad took one look at the D2 shivering just inside the door and realized that his chances of starting that thing in 30 below weather were slim to none unless some outside source of heat was brought in to help warm the engine up. Dad didn't waste his time, he just headed over to the blacksmith shop and came back with the tiger torch and a bottle of propane. He carefully positioned a piece of thick-walled pipe under the Cat between the tracks then set the torch so that the flame would direct its heat more rearward than up. In that way the heat would thaw out the entire machine so that, should you luck out and get the engine running, you could still turn the transmission over, and thus get the crawler to move so that you could actually get some work done.

Everything went just fine. Dad lit the torch and made sure that it was secured so that it would direct the heat as planned. Confident that everything would be OK, Dad left the shed and went over to the barn to check on a couple of cows that were going to calve early. It turned out to be a good idea because one of the cows was down and the calf had a leg back. Dad, being a vet, quickly tied up the cow then worked away at the calf's front leg, eventually getting it pointing in the proper direction. The actual birth took place soon after that; so Dad, confident that everything was OK in the barn, donned his heavy coat again and headed back to the shed.

It was a good thing he came back when he did because he saw that one side of the Cat's engine was ablaze. It turned out that the hose to the torch had a twist in it which pulled itself around pulling the torch in a different direction. Where it was perched on that piece of pipe allowed the torch to point up at the left side of the engine, which thawed out rapidly, then the heavy accumulation of grease reached its combustion temperature and presto, Dad had a hot Cat.

Well, he first shut of the valve at the propane tank then ran back to the shop and came out with one of those old brass-bodied Pyrene extinguishers, the type which had a T-handled plunger at one end and a nozzle at the other. To operate the extinguisher, you twisted the handle to unlatch it then pull it out of the body and shove it back in. Of course it would also be prudent to have the spray nozzle directed at the fire. He unlatched that handle then pulled the plunger out. Aiming the spray nozzle at the flames he gave a mighty shove and pushed that plunger in.

Now when there's a rush of air or gas into a semi-closed area, there's a rush of displaced air or gas that rushes right back out. In the case of the extinguisher, there was a lot more chemical sprayed than there was capacity for air. Flames rushed out; hot air rushed out; extinguisher fumes rushed out, and if it could, I think the unburned grease and scorched paint would've rushed out as well. All Dad could remember was this wall of hot gas and flame that rushed right out into his face just as he was breathing in. It sapped his wind and sent a burning sensation right down his throat. He felt that he was breathing his last and it was about that exact moment that Dad thought: 'to hell with the crawler, let the damn thing burn!'

He lost track of time for a minute or so but when Dad woke up, he was laying flat on his back on the floor of the shed, the extinguisher on the floor just inches from his grasp. He lifted his head to see the Cat, a little pall of smoke still rising from somewhere underneath. The fire was out and a quick check revealed only superficial damage. Dad fired up the small 'Pony engine,' which was used to fire up the main diesel engine and Dad was able to feed the cows that day.

There's more than one moral to the story: When using a tiger torch to warm up a frozen piece of equipment, don't leave it unattended. And when using a pyrene extinguisher because of not properly adhering to the first piece of advice, take a deep breath and hold it before discharging it. Failure to do so can do more than just extinguish the fire...