Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Black Day For Gerald Stanley

I have posted in several places and on several occasions that I find it disgusting that those who commit crimes against people and society are turned into celebrities by the “traditional” media and the victims are seldom mentioned. I think it should be handled the other way around. The victims should always be mentioned and those who have committed the initial crime which created the problem should be mentioned as seldom as possible. Yet six weeks after we received information about actual events we are still getting the wrong information from the “traditional” media.
Perhaps the “traditional” media are continuing their biased, unfair coverage of the Stanley trial because they realize that they, as much as anyone else are responsible for what happened.
If the five people in the SUV from Red Pheasant First Nation had any idea that they where responsible for their own actions and subject to the consequences of those actions, perhaps they would not have acted as they did. However, according to much of the coverage of previous events across Canada, they may have developed the idea they could do anything they want to anyone.
Investigation and the resultant information revealed at trial informed us that Colten Boushie had been involved in more than one theft and had misused alcohol and other drugs. During the incident which resulted in his death he twice attempted grand theft, committed verbal and physical assault, threatened with and/or misused a firearm. More than one source reported that Boushie did not think anything could be done to interfere with any action he might take.
Mr. Boushie had every reason to think he was beyond reproach. Due to un-informed or more accurately, un-researched articles that claim his forefathers had been mistreated he might have developed the idea he deserved compensation. Since he had been given much that he didn’t earn during his short life it would not have been hard for him to develop the feeling that such charity and benevolence was his right.
This is not simply something that develops through personal or individual contact although that too occurs. Anytime there is a claim of mistreatment to individual communities or individuals, whether true or not the Canadian Federal and Provincial Governments immediately take a defensive stance and apologize. Often they have no idea what they are apologizing for or if there is even a real problem. The “traditional” media then repeats the apology for days until, regardless of any truth, it all becomes “fact”.
It is true that in the past there was serious mistreatment of some of the ancestors of those who rode in the SUV and attacked the Stanley property. However no one alive today or for the past several decades was responsible for that mistreatment. In addition some of those who thought they had been mistreated brought it on by their own actions. And in some cases those who did perpetrate inter-racial crimes a century or more ago thought, because of their training and poor upbringing, that they where doing the “right thing.”
Looking back to the past from here it should be obvious to any thinking person that in 1850 those of both Old World and New World heritage made some serious mistakes. Now we are all “New World People” and thinking people will work together.
The sad part is there are many people from both backgrounds who are not thinking. Instead they are feeling and will not move forward into the future. They continue to feel they should be given a home, a career and protection without any effort on their part to achieve those goals. They may even feel that what someone else has worked hard for should be given to them. Government and media actions may even support such feelings.
Mr. and Mrs. Stanley earned their equipment, home and lifestyle. That lifestyle includes a feeling of safety and security. They do not deserve to lose any of their equipment. They do not deserve to be physically attacked. They do not deserve to feel their life is in jeopardy.
They have the moral right to protect property, family and life. They should also have the legal right to do so – even to the point of protection from wrong thinking “officials” and “traditional” media.
This is true for every citizen of Canada including those who may consider themselves Cree, Mohawk, Ojibwa, or Tinglit before being Canadian. Allowing oneself to be assaulted, beaten or killed while waiting for a police officer to show up is immoral. It will take anywhere from fifteen minutes to several days so it is not only immoral but stupid. Therefore leaving the laws as they are is unconscionable
Peace officers will not like this last paragraph. They will claim it will lead to situations which will require a great deal of paperwork on their part. But that is the job for which they signed on.
It also might lead to less time in hospital for people who don’t deserve to be there. The resultant savings for the medical system perhaps could be used to hire a half dozen more peace officers … or nurses.
Colten Boushie was not the victim, he was the perpetrator. Mr. and Mrs. Stanley and their son were the victims. They should be treated as such.
I welcome comments pro or con. If you don’t make sense and only rant, I will delete it.
The following are highlights of the events that took place the day Gerald Stanley had to do something he will regret for the rest of his life. They were gleaned from the pages of the StarPhoenix of Saskatoon, SK.

Gerald Stanley trial evidence
From Crown’s opening argument (Crown prosecutor Bill Burge)

He also highlighted some agreed facts of the case, including that Boushie’s death was caused by a gunshot wound to the head, that Stanley tested positive for gunshot residue on his hands and face, that a .22-calibre rifle barrel with a bullet in the chamber was found next to Boushie’s body, and that an empty box of .22-calibre cartridges, as well as 17 live rounds and 11 spent casings compatible with the rifle, were found inside the SUV.

A clearer picture of the day’s events began to emerge. Witnesses said five people — Boushie, Cassidy Cross-Whitstone, Belinda Jackson, Eric Meechance and Kiora Wuttunee — got into a grey SUV and drove from Red Pheasant First Nation to a nearby swimming spot. All were consuming alcohol. Later, they got a flat tire and drove onto a farm 15 kilometres northeast of Stanley’s farm, where at least one person tried to steal a truck, hitting the truck window with a .22-calibre rifle that was in the back of the SUV. The SUV was eventually driven onto Stanley’s farm, where Boushie was killed by a single gunshot to the head while he sat in the driver’s seat of the SUV.
During cross-examination, Eric Meechance told court he’d had roughly seven drinks that day and had not told police about the rifle in the SUV because he was banned from having firearms. He broke down on the witness stand when asked to look at a photo of the crime scene that showed Boushie’s body.

Sheldon Stanley testimony
Sheldon told the jury a grey SUV was driven onto the Stanley farm and that someone from the SUV attempted to steal a quad. Sheldon said he and his father ran to the SUV and Sheldon hit the SUV’s windshield with a hammer. He said the SUV was then driven into a parked vehicle. Sheldon said two people got out and ran away and he went into the house to get his truck keys. He heard three gunshots and then saw his father holding a handgun in one hand and a magazine in the other, he said. Sheldon testified that his father said the gun “just went off.”

DAY 4:
Two people who were in an SUV with Boushie admitted lying in police statements. One also said he lied under oath during Stanley’s preliminary hearing.
Belinda Jackson, 24, testified that she saw a man tell a “younger-looking man” to “go get a gun” and that the older man grabbed a handgun. According to Jackson, that man shot Boushie twice in the head.
Defence lawyer Scott Spencer noted that in her statement to police on the day after Boushie died, Jackson said she had not heard any gunshots and did not know who shot Boushie, but that maybe it was a lady with a shotgun.
Spencer said she was “very intoxicated” while giving her statement and that the officer who took the statement “made it seem like I did something wrong so I didn’t know how to answer him.”
Cross-Whitstone told the jury he’d been driving drunk and had a .22-calibre rifle in the back of the SUV. He said when police interviewed him 24 hours after Boushie died he was “half cut” and lied because he’d had so much to drink and didn’t tell the truth about drinking or having a gun. He said he also lied about those things while under oath at Stanley’s preliminary hearing in April 2017.
Firearms expert Greg Williams told the jury “something unusual happened” when Stanley’s handgun fired, but he found no evidence the gun was broken.
One possible explanation was that the ammunition was defective, which could have caused a hang fire — a perceptible delay between when the trigger is pulled and when the bullet is fired. Williams stressed that such an event is “exceedingly rare” and that any delay would last less than a second.
Spencer asked whether Stanley’s ammunition — 1953 military surplus stock from Czechoslovakia that had been stored in a shed — could have been degraded. Williams agreed that age and storage are both factors in the degradation of ammunition.
Gerald Stanley took the stand and shared his version of what happened.
He described trespassers on his property, a chaotic scene involving a collision and an attempted theft of a quad. Stanley said he loaded two bullets into a handgun and fired two warning shots into the air, the last time pulling the trigger “two or three times” to make sure the gun was empty. He said two men from the vehicle started running down the driveway.
Stanley said he never pointed the gun at the vehicle or the people in it. He said he brought the gun down and popped the clip out, leaving the gun in his right hand and the magazine in his left.
“As far as I was concerned, it was empty, I’d fired the last shot,” Stanley said.
He continued to walk toward the vehicle and then realized that the lawn mower his wife had been on was unmanned, he testified, saying he felt “pure terror” and ran to the vehicle, planning to look under it. He said as he approached, the vehicle revved up and he thought it was “going to run me over.”
He said he noticed the driver of the vehicle for the first time and saw “something metal” sticking out of the window toward him. He said he banged the metal object with his left hand as he reached for the keys and that his right hand was somewhere in the vehicle.
“I was reaching in across the steering wheel to turn the keys off and boom, the thing just went off,” Stanley told the jury.
Under cross-examination, Burge asked Stanley if he had taken any precautions with the gun when he reached into the vehicle.
Stanley said he didn’t think it was loaded and was “just holding it.”
Spencer said while the shooting is not justified as an act of self-defence, there is a self-defence factor the jury must keep in mind.
“What can you do to protect yourself in those circumstances? You can’t use lethal force, but is it reasonable to attempt to deal with the circumstance to defend you and your family?” he asked.

So what can one expect from a jury? It is obvious that those in the SUV where trying to steal and guilty of assault and willing to escalate any assault. They all lied at one point or another. They were all intoxicated and might not even know what they did or saw. (For example, what woman with a shotgun?)
Even though I saw published reports of Gerald Stanley’s wife being punched I was unable to find such testimony. I can, however, understand Mr. Stanley’s fear when he saw his wife on the lawnmower and suddenly realized she was not there anymore.
I have some familiarity with semi-automatic handguns. It is possible to fire two rounds, pull the magazine and retract the bolt which then could hang up and not return to a seated position due to dirt holding it in place. Should this happen (in a fast paced, fear filled situation for the untrained it would be very hard if not impossible to notice such details.) the last cartridge picked up could still be in the holder on the face of the bolt. If the bolt then slid closed at any time and the trigger was still depressed the weapon would fire. Depending on the weapon it is also possible to hold the bolt open with the safety. If the safety was then released (not hard to do when one is simply “holding” the weapon) the same discharge would result as when the bolt is held by foreign matter.
There is a possibility that faulty ammunition could be responsible. (1953, Check made, military? Wow! Throw that crap out.)
The “metal object” that Mr. Stanley referred to, might that be the barrel of the .22 rifle found in the SUV? Since both weapons where of the same caliber are we sure that Mr. Boushie was not shot by the rifle from inside the vehicle? I didn’t see any information about ballistic comparisons being done or if they could be done.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

An Interview with Cold Coffee Cafe

I've done a few interviews but only three that have been recorded and concern my writing. Here is one done a few years ago for Cold Coffee Cafe. The picture was done by the same person who did the cover for "The Makine Of Jake McTavish", Tracy Wandling. Check out her design and her art work at or hunt her up on Facebook.

Author D. M. McGowan writes historical fiction about the settling and opening of Canada’s West. “The Great Liquor War” – 1998 – Daison Publishing / “Partners” – 2008 – Strategic Book Publishing / “Homesteader: Finding Sharon” – 2009 – Strategic Book Publishing.
Dave was born in Collingwood, Ont. and has lived in Owen Sound, Caledon, Heathcote, (in BC) Ft. St. John, Vancouver, (back to Ont.) Jarvis, Oshawa, Windsor, (Alb.) Calgary, Ft. Saskatchewan, (BC) Kelowna and Dawson Creek. He has been a cowboy, forest firefighter, heavy equipment operator, farmhand, gardener, road musician and businessman. He lives with his wife, Karen, and children and grandchildren in Northern British Columbia, where he works as a commercial driver.
What makes you proud to be a writer from Canada? Receiving from readers requests for another story.
I also take pride in revealing some of the past of this great country. Some strong people with great vision built this country but we seldom hear of them. They are the pioneers who came to a flat land of great distances, to a world of high mountain peaks, to winter’s cold or summer’s heat that was far beyond their comprehension and yet built something wondrous out of that, a world that we, those who live in it, often don’t properly appreciate.
Those of us who look for it can gather information on politicians or major business leaders of the past but it’s difficult to find out about those who actually built Canada, the miners, loggers, cattlemen and farmers. People much like those who are continuing to make it work.
What or who inspired you to become a writer? Driven by a love of history I had gathered stories that interested me. In an attempt to feed and house myself and my family I enjoyed a variety of experiences through the years and turned some of those into stories as well. While we were traveling Western Canada playing music my wife and partner, Karen suggested that I should write some of those stories down. I did as suggested and found that what I enjoyed most was historical fiction.
When did you begin writing with the intention of becoming published? I began writing in 1990 but did not consider publishing until much later, perhaps 1995. My first was “The Great Liquor War” published in 1998.
Did your environment or upbringing play a major role in your writing and did you use it to your advantage? Yes, to both questions. As mentioned above I’ve had a variety of experiences and have used knowledge gained there in some of my stories. For example a common practice in the mountains is to build a cache of goods and supplies for later use either at a permanent or long term camp site or for use on an oft travelled trail. These caches are usually ten feet or more off the ground to save these supplies from the ravages of wildlife (primarily bears, wolves and coyotes). They may be no more than a floor or platform but are sometimes a log cabin high in the trees. I’ve never read mention of such in historical fiction or westerns and have included them in two of my stories.
Do you come up with your title before or after you write the manuscript? I generally make up some kind of a title so I can save it and find it in my computer. However in many cases I’m aware this title will have to be changed when I’m finished. The stories usually take on a life of their own and become something I had not intended when I wrote the first paragraph. “The Great Liquor War” was “Liquor Laws” in the beginning. “The Making of Jake McTavish” started out as “Jake’s Justice” but the story itself turned out to be close to my original idea.
Please introduce your genre and why you prefer to write in that genre? Historical fiction or a “Western” with a focus on Canada. I enjoy reading good stories from the west but have found very few sited in Canada. Two or perhaps three writers have done excellent work with fiction on the Canadian West and that work is as entertaining as any in the world. Except for those few many offerings are hard to read, and can be misleading or inaccurate.
There are billions of western novels out there but very few from those areas that, at the time where “the North West Territories” or “the Colony of British Columbia.”
What has been your most rewarding experience with your writing process? The reviews I have received from many sites, the reviews from fans and the awards from Reader’s Favorite.
What has been your most rewarding experience in your publishing journey? Readers, commenting about some historical depiction or reference in one of my stories who say, “I didn’t know that.” I’ve also heard and read, “I didn’t understand history until I read that.”
Have you had a negative experience in your publishing journey? If so please explain how it could have been avoided? Traditional publishing houses who continue to place their focus on literature when entertainment is what has always sold.
Traditional publishing has had several tough years recently and I think they could release some of that pressure by spending less time with those who want something other than a good story.
What one positive piece of advice would you give to other authors? Write! If you have a problem which you wish to call “writers block” put that story aside and sit down and write. Start a new story, outline the person you want as a life partner or explain the one you have, write about your favorite pet or restaurant but write something. When you’re done or perhaps tomorrow go back and work on that story that’s giving you trouble.
Who is your favorite author? Anyone who is entertaining. Louis LaMour, Michael Connelly, Lee Child

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Don’t you just love it?

Don’t you just love it?

You did your homework, looking around for a contractor to put new siding on your house … or a new deck, perhaps. You mention to a friend that you plan on doing some work and what you found out. He suggests a company that he has a good history with so you phone them and they come over, take a look and quote you a price.
Let’s say the price is $2,000.00.
And let’s even say that the work is done well and on time.
When the invoice comes in the total is $4000.00 double what had been quoted.
You complain that the quote was for half that and the response is, “Well, that was only a guess. And we had problems.”
And then he adds, “Do you have that quote in writing?”
In addition there is a lot of shabby work and late finishing that the buyer is expected to accept.

Don’t you just love it?

You’ve been watching what’s happening in your area and your country and you can see room for improvement. An election is coming up so you’re paying attention to what the candidates think is important, attempting to determine if it aligns with your thoughts. There are a half dozen you could vote for and each has made statements about issues that have nothing to do with each other making it difficult to understand if they have any solid conviction on any subject. Then a candidate you where leaning away from suddenly makes a solid statement about the issue you are most concerned with, so you vote for him/her.
Then, after “your” candidate is elected, he says that he won’t be implementing what you desire because, “Well, that wasn’t what I meant.”
During almost 70 years of observance I’ve seen these sly/lying/dishonest (as the case may be) operators succeed many times in the short term. However in the long term those around them eventually understand what disgusting creatures they are and they lose. The result is very satisfying for REAL people but it sometimes requires a long wait to achieve that satisfaction.
There was a time, back when life was simpler that crooks, thieves and lyres were easier to identify. That is one of the reasons why my novels are set in those times. I like my main protagonists to be people, that is to say they make mistakes as all humans do. However, overall they are right and they win.
And the “black hats” lose.
I like it when that happens, be it life or fiction.
Another reason I write the stories I do is to promote this country I was born in and of which I am proud. I’m tired of reading (and hearing) the stories in either history or fiction of how Canada’s past is full of everything being done right by accommodating, thoughtful, considerate individuals all saying “Thank you,” and “Oh no, after you.”
Sunday dress in the 1920s
"Beaver" family, Peace River about 1911

I also believe we should be celebrating those who actually built the country; the mothers and fathers, the explorer/surveyor, the trapper, the logger, 
Boston Bar freight wagons, 1870
Wagon Train, Cariboo Road

the farmer, the teamster and teacher. Instead we spend most of our time celebrating those who built themselves and what they accomplished for the country (and that includes most countries) was secondary; the politicians, philosophers and lawmakers.
Make a comment: Tell me what you think about Canada's history or the history of your country should you one of those unlucky enough not to enjoy this great land.
Let me know if right and wrong, lies and truth, and moral actions are important to you.
Oh, and just to make sure we understand that history is full of all kinds of human endeavors and needs here is a picture of  "Jenny's Place" and it was not a girl's school. This pic happens to be from Wyoming ... its hard to find one from Canada because, as mentioned above, historians tend to be "selective."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Reason For the Season

Each year the Peace Songwriters hold an event entitled "A Place At the Table" and raise what we can for the Salvation Army. In 2016 I wrote a song for the event and performed it again on Dec. 1st, 2017. Yes, we raised a few bucks and hopefully it will help those who might not have a place at any table.
The theme centres around a song written by Linda and Bill Studley which, in three verses describes some of those who are alone, perhaps sleeping on the street, and do not have a place to sit for a Christmas meal.
I hope our efforts, and those of the Salvation Army have helped reduce those numbers.
Here, on youtube is a version of my song, "The Reason For the Season".

Monday, November 20, 2017

An Excerpt from “The Making of Jake McTavish”

It has been far too long since I posted here, but with a few hours “release” from hauling fuel … well, take every opportunity to do what you really want.

Here are the first few words from my latest release. It has been quite some time since it was released but it still makes a gift for the reader, those who like a little history and geography hidden within their entertainment. With these first chapters it can give one an idea of what they might be getting either in print versions or in one of the digital formats that can be rushed to someone on-line.
And here is a link to the introduction I posted when Jake was first introduced.

Paying the Price for Rape and Murder


Omineca Country, British Columbia, 1898

Jake McTavish came out of the winter twenty pounds lighter and a whole lot meaner. Perhaps not meaner than he had been the fall before but definitely more than he had been before his wife had been murdered. That had been slightly more than four years in the past but he had not forgotten anything about it. The more he brooded here in the wilderness the more he detested the company of his fellow man.
That meant it was his fourth year taking furs from the Finlay River country, and the fourth year he wasn’t going to have any cash money once he re-supplied for the coming season. He had collected fur, but not much more than it would take to pay for supplies and repair equipment.
He was leaning against the door frame of his cabin, morning coffee in hand, gazing down toward the river, when he said, “Maybe I’ll just have t’ shoot somebody. That way the government will have t’ feed us ‘til they punch my ticket and bury me.”
Jake wasn’t paying much attention to what he was saying. The words were just noise to fill the empty cabin; and his only companion, the blue tick hound on the floor by the stove, always agreed with him.
After four years of talking to few but the hound Jake was beginning to think the animal understood. Having experienced the intelligence of the animal he had also begun believing he knew what the dog was thinking.
“Yeah, I know, problem with that is we’d have t’ find somebody to shoot,” Jake continued, and then added, “Chester, we gotta take them furs t’ the fort. Maybe there’ll be somebody there that’s worth a five-cent bullet.”
If Jake had been serious about shooting someone, perhaps he would have paid more attention to his surroundings. Had he done so, he might have saved himself from an attack on his life. However he did notice the hound briefly lift one eyelid and quickly let it close. Another person viewing his always serious expression probably wouldn’t have believed it but Jake found Chester’s reaction humorous. They had been out before dawn checking the few trap sets still near the cabin. The mornings were still cold and Jake was sure Chester was enjoying the heat of the fire. He also thought that over the course of the past few years Chester had heard enough of his master’s growling that he was extremely comfortable ignoring it.
Jake spent the rest of the day closing up camp. He had already tripped any open traps that morning and only had four fresh hides - three beaver and a martin - to set out on drying frames. The few supplies that had managed to make it through the winter he put up in his cache cabin - a solid tree house built high between two pine trees. He gave his canoe a very careful check for damage and placed it in the water, tied securely to the log dock.
He decided to take the fresh hides laced in their drying frames by setting them on the three small bales of furs he would load in the canoe. It was precarious, considering some of the white water he would have to shoot, but he could tie them in place. The alternative was to leave them to be included in next years take, but he thought he needed everything he could get this year. Besides, if he left them he would probably find them ripped up by coyotes or wolves when he returned. Leaving them in the cabin or cache would fill those structures with enough stink to attract a grizzly. Given enough incentive a silver tip would break into anything.
The first part of the trip went as Jake had planned; and since it was his fourth trip down to Ft. St. John this was not a particular surprise. It had been a short, mild winter and he was late enough in the season that he saw very little ice, except for a few small pieces melting away from their perches on driftwood where they had been forced by the earlier heavy run off. The water was still high enough that he could avoid portaging, but low enough that he managed to keep the canoe upright with his cargo inside the craft.
Some stretches of river did create heart pounding moments. Jake was not one to admit it, even to himself, but adrenaline flowed and he worked hard to avoid rocks and whirlpools. Chester, in his assigned space at the front of the canoe, put his chin on the ribbing and his paws over his nose.
There was just enough light for Jake to shoot the last rapids on the Finlay, and enough dark that he could steer wide around the settlement of Finlay Forks without attracting attention. Everyone stopped at the landing. After a winter in the bush most men wanted company and conversation. Jake wanted neither. He also didn’t want to put up with fur traders trying to deal him out of his pelts for less than top price.


Two men did see him from the dock as he turned into the Peace River. One was known as Sam Twice. He had been born into the Beaver Nation but was accepted at no lodge, including that of his own family. The other was Martin Prentice, a man who definitely was wanted. He was wanted by the law in both the State of New York and the Province of Ontario. The town police in Winnipeg and Calgary would have also liked to talk to him, but they were not aware he was the one who had committed the crimes.
In the twilight Sam Twice made a flicking motion with one finger toward the silhouette out on the water. “Him maybe got fur,” he said.
“I expect he does,” Martin agreed. He took a swig from the jug he held and passed it to Sam. “Perhaps he also has a small poke of gold he’s panned out of streams.”
“Why him not come in?” Sam asked. He flicked a finger toward the large cabin that served as store, saloon, and hotel as long as one wasn’t too particular about prices, liquor quality, or sleeping on the floor. He took a swig from the jug which the two had purchased at the store. Sam didn’t care about the quality of the refreshment since he had never had anything better.
“I expect he wants more than half price for his pelts,” Martin replied. “He’ll take them down to Ft. St. John where he’ll get as much as he can get in this country.”
“Don’ like that man boss that Fort John place,” Sam said. “He marry Beaver girl. She nice girl, one time.”
Martin looked at Sam a moment. He knew there was much about Sam’s past that he didn’t know, but he didn’t really care. Sam was useful from time to time, and that was all the mattered. “I heard his wife was Cree, but what do I know? I’ve never even seen the woman.”
Sam grunted, giving Martin no idea what he meant.
Martin waved toward the silhouette of man and canoe fading into the gathering darkness. “Now, that pilgrim will undoubtedly stop for the night. Tomorrow he’ll go on to Portage Mountain. If we were to float down the river right now we could be at Portage to meet him.”
“I like maybe stay here an’ drink,” Sam objected. He wasn’t one to hasten toward any effort that wasn’t absolutely necessary.
“How would you like to have a nice canoe?” Martin asked.
Sam looked at Martin with hard, cold eyes. “I get canoe an’ you get fur?”
“No, no,” Martin objected. “We split the furs and you get the canoe. After all, I already have a canoe.”
Sam nodded several times, then placed the cork in the jug and hit it with the heel of his hand. “We go.”


Peace River, Portage Mountain, British Columbia, 1898

There was no question about pulling out of the water upriver from Portage Mountain. Even in late August, when the water flow may have dropped several feet, no one in their right mind would try to shoot the Peace Canyon.
It was mid afternoon of their second day of travel when Jake pulled in to the river bank. Chester jumped out onto dry ground and ran to the nearest aspen where he lifted his leg.
Pulling the canoe up so the current couldn’t take it, Jake said, “Mighty fine idea, Chester. You’re a smart dog.”
Jake unloaded his canoe and dragged the craft up onto dry ground. Chester sat on his haunches, looked at the bales of furs and supplies, swung his gaze up the trail, and then looked back at the cargo.
“We ain’t in a hurry, Chester. We’ll spend the night here. Go see if yuh can find a rabbit.”
Chester headed off into the bush and Jake collected firewood.
At the start and end of any portage there are well-used camp areas; and if the trail to more water is long enough, more stopping places along the way. The Portage Mountain trail - a long walk without carrying a pack - was no exception. There were several sites that had been used on the upriver end. Jake chose one of the spots as far back as possible from the trail end and riverbank and started his fire. If there were other travellers, he wanted to avoid company if possible. He didn’t mind carrying a little water.
While the fire burned down to coals he moved his freight and canoe up to the camp site. Gathering firewood, he noticed a small aspen sapling and cut it with his knife. Back at the fire he skewered a piece of moose meat with the green stick and drove the butt end of the stick into the ground so the meat was suspended over the coals.
As the meat was heating up to a sizzle he mixed up some bannock batter, wound it around another piece of green stick and propped that over the fire.
Chester sauntered into camp and dropped to the ground at the edge of firelight.
“You’re getting lazy, old man,” Jake said. “First smell o’ cookin’ meat an’ you come back.”
He turned his gaze to the hound and saw the relaxed, satisfied look and the long tongue licking lips.
“I apologise, old man. I don’t know what you mighta found t’ eat on this pile o’ rocks, but you’ve found somethin’.”
When he finished eating and washing up, Jake threw a couple of sticks on the fire and propped the canoe up so it would collect and hold the heat for his bed. He propped himself up against a dry log, loaded his pipe and leaned back puffing contentedly.
“Nothin’ wrong with this, Ches. Nice warm night.”
Surprised at his master’s good mood, Chester grunted.
During breakfast the next morning Jake decided to continue taking it easy. Even though the two bundles of furs were not very large he would pack them around the mountain one at a time. The four fresh plews had not been properly treated, but they were dry so he decided to tie them on to one of the bundles. He pulled a bag full of string and sinew from his possibles pack and wrapped the hides in place, cutting the ends of sinew off and putting them back in the bag.
He was already on the trail when he realized he hadn’t put his knife back in the sheath. He hesitated, decided he would pick it up on the next trip, and started off again.
He had only taken a few steps when he heard Chester off the trail to his right. There was the beginning of a bark followed by a howl that was abruptly cut off. Jake swung the pack of furs from his shoulders, dropped it to the trail, and stepped into the brush.
There was blinding pain from the back of his skull. He saw a light as bright as the sun. Then he fell into blackness.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Depression Era Antics

Here is a short story I wrote some time ago and I believe I posted it here once before about 2 years ago.
The kernel that grew into this story was a tale told to me by a man who actually did "ride the rails" during the "dirty thirties". He had several stories of his travels through North America and I expect that in the future I'll be using some of what he told me to build other short stories.
But for now ...

A Voice From Beyond.
By D.M. McGowan ©


            His eyes opened to dim bands of light coming through cracks in the ancient boxcar. Those who had never found a need for a low-budget ride on a fast freight might not appreciate how he could have slept through the clack of the wheels and the squeal of steel. After years of becoming used to it, he found the rock and sway comforting, and only heard the noise when some fellow traveler might try to speak over it. However he may not have slept so well had he been able to look into the future and know he was soon to be a corpse.
            Still on his back, he swung calloused hands to his face and tried to massage the parchment there into something with the feeling and life of skin. When this proved relatively ineffective, he ran fingers through thinning hair, and then pressed it down. This cursory attempt at neatness was as effective as can be expected when the body in question has been subjected to several days of soot, sand, and the sun-soaked interior of a boxcar. The face was nicely smeared, and the hairs – those that remained – waved merrily at each other.
            With a stiffness ignited by sleeping on the hard floor, but more the result of inadequate and infrequent nourishment, he rolled to his side, then to hands and knees. He shook his head in an attempt to improve circulation and vision. The desired result was only marginally achieved and the abrupt movement did little to improve his appearance. Slowly, with the aid of the wall of the rocking boxcar, he attained a position which could almost be described as upright. He was only in his late twenties, but the thinning hair and frequent stiffness often led observers to guess his age ten years higher.
            "The faint-hearted fools on the home front know not the great pleasures of life on the road," he said aloud to the duffel bag at his feet.
            With one hand on the wall for support, he staggered the short distance to the door and rolled it open a few inches. Before him were the dark shapes of trees, open fields and an occasional homestead. The day was fast approaching, but the lights in some of the houses still winked at him as the train sped toward the dawn.
            Leaning on the door frame he unbuttoned his shirt pocket and retrieved tobacco and papers. Just as he turned away from the rush of air to light his freshly rolled cigarette, the lonesome sound of the whistle came from up ahead in a long, plaintive wail. After a short pause, two shorter blasts cut the dawn.
            Pushing the door back a little more he leaned out into the slipstream to look ahead, dropping the broken match on the roadbed. He could see a community ahead, but not well enough in the wind and poor light to identify it. Stepping back into the car he drew deep on the cupped cigarette, then coughed at the dry smoke on a too dry throat.
            "Maybe you should smoke two or three cigarettes at once, you damn fool," he said between bouts of chocking.
            By the time he recovered and turned to the open door, the train was passing through the small town and he could identify it from two earlier visits. Catching a fleeting glimpse of the sign on the end of the station also helped.
            "Kirkwood," he announced, for the duffel bag’s enlightenment. "Time to depart our rail-bound carriage."
            The next town would be Webster's Grove, where he intended to stop. Not that he had any business in the small community, or any business being in Missouri, for that matter. However, he did wish to avoid some business that he expected to find in St. Louis, only a short distance farther down the track.
            It was in the larger centers such as St. Louis where those who might catch freight on the fly ran the greatest risk of running into "Bulls." Two years before he had met some of those St. Louis Bulls and, after they had talked to him with brass knuckles and bung starters, they had helped him detrain in Webster's Grove.
            With tens of thousands of young men, and sometimes women, riding the rails of the land, railroad companies had hired large numbers of security personnel to discourage these non-paying passengers. Since they did not deem it logical to spend a great deal to handle a problem that was already costing them, very little was spent on wages or training for these railroad "detectives". It was not difficult to hire great numbers for the work, since there was no other, but the caliber of personnel was not usually high. They were often bullies or "Bulls", and may have caused more death and injury than was caused by a slip and falling off or under trains.
            Garnet Smith was one of those who had made a life for himself by finding work wherever the last freight had dropped him. Three years before, in 1932, he had convinced himself that he would be less of a burden to his family if he went off on his own. There were several times, including the meeting with the St. Louis Bulls two years before, when he would have dearly loved to be a burden to anyone rather than a load for someone to dump.
            He remembered his earlier visit to East Missouri with a mixture of embarrassment and pleasure. He should have known better than to try and go through a large center on a long freight, close to a shift change when the bulls would be awake, sober, and at their meanest. However, he also might not have wound up in Webster's Grove where he met a man who helped to start him on a run of relative successes.
            He made his first visit to "The Groves" – as residents of Webster's Grove called their town – with the help of two railroad men. One Bull, more attentive than most – or perhaps one who enjoyed beating defenseless men more than his mates – stayed on the train after it passed through St. Louis on its way southwest. As they approached The Groves, he had found Gar Smith in an empty gondola car. As he awoke, Gar was introduced to the attentions of a sawed-off baseball bat. Another bull was sliding into the car while trying to slip brass knuckles over his fingers. Gar avoided certain injury by instead choosing the possibility of injury. He jumped from the moving train.
            With no money, no job, and in no physical condition to take a job after going from 50 miles per hour to zero in seven bounces, Gar spent that first night in The Groves' jail on an uncomfortable cot and a charge of vagrancy. However, the Sheriff who had arranged his evening lodging had also arranged work for him on the following day. It had turned out to be three of the more pleasant weeks of Gar's extensive travels.


            On this, his second visit to The Groves, Gar entered Main Street just as the town was greeting the new day. He and a hoarded sliver of soap had already visited a stream, so his appearance had greatly improved and perhaps would not be particularly noteworthy to the local populace. He was, however, a stranger in Small-Town America and carrying a duffel bag.
            At that point he was also the only one on the street. A Model T truck was parked by the pumps in front of Casey's Automobile Repair/Tires/Blacksmith. Farther down, past the first cross street, an Oakland Touring Car was angle-parked in front of Arbuckle's Mercantile and General Hardware. Except for the young man walking down the boardwalk, duffel bag swinging from a rope over his shoulder, there was no other sign of man or beast.
            After ten hours in an empty boxcar, his main thought was breakfast, and he strode directly toward a sign that read Jenny's Lunch. Two doors past the diner, a door opened and a tall man wearing a Sheriff's badge, and a gray Stetson hat stepped onto the sidewalk
            "Good morning, George," Gar greeted the Sheriff with a smile. "You'll need to be careful where you hide when you're trying to catch bad guys," Gar observed, his eyes on the Sheriff's extensive stomach as he patted his own. "I see you've been living fairly well."
            The Sheriff paused, both hands on his stomach, his head cocked at an angle, and a quizzical expression on his face. "Stone. Rock? No, Garnet something. You were here about a year ago."
            Garnet shook his head. "A little over two years."
            The Sheriff nodded, and then continued as if there had been complete agreement. "Since you've been here I've actually lost a few pounds. Nice to have a steady job, though." He patted his ample girth affectionately.
            "On the other hand, ya don't look too spiffy yer own self," the Sheriff added, walking toward Gar.
            "I didn't have a steady job," Gar replied with a grin.
            "Not many do." The Sheriff grasped the handle of the screen door and swung it back. The squeal of the return spring filled the empty street and bounced back at them. As he grasped the brass handle of the diner's main door and thumbed the latch open he added, "It don't make my job easy, folks not workin'. But it's a job."
            The Sheriff paused with his hand on the door handle and turned his head to look at Gar. "You on the bum?"
            "On my way home," Gar replied, waving the Sheriff to continue through the door, "and I'm buying you breakfast."
            "Well! Makes me mighty happy, that does," the Sheriff responded, continuing on into the empty diner. "I'll get fed well, an' if you're buyin' yuh must have money. If yuh have money, I don' have t'nab ya fer a vagrant." He pointed at the table farthest back in the room, near the kitchen door, then went behind the counter and filled two cups with coffee.
            Gar dropped his duffel in the corner then took a seat facing the street.
            "Maybe it’s a bribe," the Sheriff continued, a glint in his eye. He returned to the table, deposited the cups and took a seat, flipping the holster off the side of the chair. "Maybe you're tryin' to buy your way out of a night in jail. Or did yuh have a good summer?"
            Gar smiled and shrugged. "Nothin' wrong with sleepin' in your jail. You could do somethin' about the bed, but it's nice and warm.”
            He sipped his coffee, the first for him in two days. "I did have a good summer. It's been a good year, actually. Most of two years I've been doing all right. It started to get a little better when some small town clown lined up three weeks of work for me back there. The least I owe him is a breakfast."
            Replacing his cup on the table, the Sheriff smiled. Before he could comment, the door to the street opened and a tall thin man wearing a black, threadbare suit and carrying a black bag entered the diner.
            "Good morning, George," the newcomer said, placing his bag on the floor beside Gar's duffel. He turned and went behind the counter to get his own coffee. "Who's your friend?"
            "Good mornin' Doc," the Sheriff replied. "Garnet," he paused, looking at Gar.
            "Smith," Gar offered, moving to the seat against the wall.
            "A likely story," the Sheriff commented with a smile. "Garnet Smith, this is our local pill-roller and meat-cutter, Doc Logan." He paused as the Doctor took the seat just vacated by Garnet. "Gar is one of them acky-demic types we see so often these days; travellin' the country givin' great study t' society."
            "Academic," the Doctor offered, nodding his understanding. "Been working much?" he asked Gar.
            "It's either getting better, or I'm getting better at finding work," Gar replied.
            The Doctor nodded, and then sipped his coffee as a middle aged woman entered through the batwing doors leading to the kitchen.
            "What's the stranger havin'?" she demanded abruptly.
            "Mornin', Clara," the Sheriff responded. "It's jist the greatest pleasure to see you too." He turned his eyes on Gar, his brow lifted in silent question.
            Gar shrugged. "Flapjacks? Eggs? Ham? Whatever the Sheriff's having."
            Clara nodded and returned to the kitchen.


            The Doctor looked at the Sheriff and asked, his voice low, "Tonight?"
            The Sheriff nodded his face hard. The expression of wry humor disappeared so fast Gar was not sure it had existed.
            "Tonight?" Gar asked, his eyes going from the Doctor to the Sheriff.
            The Doctor and the Sheriff looked at each other. The Doctor shrugged and said, "We really do need more help. It would be much easier with three, and even that is a bare minimum. And he's an unlikely suspect since he's not from the area."
            The Sheriff nodded and turned his attention on Gar. "With the tough times we've had, folks'll do most anythin' to make a dollar. Some of them'll even submit t' medical 'speriments. Sometimes it’s painful, and sometimes it marks 'em for life. In order to stop this, a law was passed makin' it illegal to conduct medical 'speriments on folks. Medical students're only allowed to practice on animals an' the dead."
            Gar nodded his understanding, for he knew most of what the Sheriff had just recited. "And in order to make a few bucks, people have been robbin' graves and sellin' the corpses to medical schools," he offered.
            "Precisely," the Doctor confirmed. "The robbing of graves has been practiced throughout history, but lately it has become epidemic. One can almost guarantee that a fresh grave will be reopened. I understand there is even a market for used caskets, although few families can afford to have their loved ones buried in one, anymore, used or otherwise."
            Garnet suddenly understood what they wanted. "And you have just had a funeral in town?" Gar guessed.
            Both the townsmen nodded. "Yesterday," the Sheriff replied.
            Gar knew where the two townsmen were headed and he didn't much like the idea. Grave robbers could be every bit as dangerous as moonshiners. Someone could get hurt: that someone might be Garnet Smith. "Listen fellows, I'm on my way home. I'm all in favor of a little visit, but I expect to be on whatever train goes through tonight. By tomorrow I'd like to be in Detroit or Toledo. This is October already and I don't want to get caught in an early storm."
            The Sheriff nodded his head in understanding. "There'll be another eastbound tomorrow night," he assured Gar. "One little ol' day don't make no never mind."
            "What I mind is spending a night sitting out in the cold waiting for your grave robbers to show up," Gar responded. "I've also heard they can be downright violent, and I take particular exception to being shot. Or even shot at, for that matter."
            The Sheriff nodded again, but the Doctor spoke first, much as if Gar had not expressed his objections. "Yes, three people are an absolute minimum. We believe that we can catch those who are actually opening the graves, but it would be much better if we could also catch those who buy the corpse. George and I were going to do it on our own, but with a third person we could follow the robbers, and perhaps apprehend everyone".
            Leaning back in his chair the Sheriff looked at the Doctor and shook his head in puzzlement. "Appree-hend? You read too much, Doc." He turned his attention on Gar. "We don' know who we can trust. Anybody could be involved, 'r maybe related t' the robbers. Stranger like yerself is jist what we need."
            Gar hoped to be home within the week. None of his plans included spending the night in a cold, damp graveyard. Although he did feel somewhat indebted to the Sheriff, he did not think the responsibility required much more than a breakfast. In addition he could think of no personal debt – or any other reason – for putting himself in the line of fire.
            "I'll just pick up the tab for breakfast, and then I'll be on my way," Gar announced. "I really don't see any need to get involved."
            The Doctor started to respond but the Sheriff caught his eye, shook his head, and then shrugged in what Gar mistakenly interpreted as resignation.
            Taking a drink of his coffee, the Sheriff arose, collected all their cups in his beefy hands, and then went behind the counter for refills. As he returned the three cups to the table, he changed the course of the conversation.
            "You're from Canada, ain't ya?" the Sheriff asked.
            Gar nodded. "My folks have a little farm near a place called Mount Forrest. That's in Ontario. I'm probably halfway there about now. I'm looking forward to seeing them. Help Dad over the winter and have a warm place to stay."
            George sipped his coffee, then nodded as he set the cup down. "Reckon that makes yuh one o' them illegal a-leens," he observed.
            "Aliens," the Doctor offered.
            "Whatever," George shrugged, never taking his eyes from Gar. “As a peace officer its muh duty t' report such a thing t' immigration. 'Course, it might take 'em a fair spell t' get around to followin' up muh report. 'Spect it'll be well on into winter for yuh can leave. Shame, really."
            The townsmen stared at Gar as Clara dropped breakfast on the table. Gar let out a long sigh of resignation, then took a drink of his coffee.
            Gar smiled. "You know, I've been giving it some thought and, uh, I believe this sort of thing is, uh, you know, everyone's responsibility. If you boys don't mind, I think I'd like to hang around and help you catch these despicable desperados."
            "That should be alright, don't you think George?" the Doctor responded.
            The Sheriff nodded and smiled. "Downright Christian of 'im."


            For some moments they ate in silence. Gar searched his mind for some subject that might ease the tension, finally settling on the subject of the fresh grave. "Who is the newly departed?" he asked
            "Jeff Hindle," George responded. "Good thing ya didn' say dearly departed. Doc never had much use fer 'im."
            "Can't think of a soul that did," Logan offered. "He was a mean, money-grubbing, skinflint."
            "An' it didn' help that he 'cused you o' malpractice," George noted.
            Logan waved his left hand in dismissal as the right hand put a forkful of eggs in his mouth. "He'd been doing that every six months for the last five years. What has caused my greatest discomfort are the many people who have been forced from their homes because Hindle foreclosed."
            The Doctor turned his gaze on Gar and explained. "He ran the general store across the street. When the difficulties started, he extended the kindest hand out to all his customers, offering them great credit terms. Of course, it was written up so that he could call the loans whenever he chose, and when he was certain the customer couldn't pay, that's exactly what he did."
            "Well, we don' have to worry 'bout 'im doin' that anymore," the Sheriff observed.
            "Won't his next of kin just take over the debts?" Gar asked.
            "Maybe, maybe not," Logan responded. "His closest surviving kin is his mother. Lives over in Kirkwood. Now he used to visit her every few months – that's where he was when he died – but there wasn't a great deal of love lost between the two. As a matter of fact, he stated in his will that he wanted to be buried here so that he wouldn't have to spend any more time with his parents."
            "He leave everything to her?" Gar asked.
            "Actually, no; He left everything to some cult up in Canada, but that will be contested, and I'm sure everything will eventually wind up with the mother."
            "Sounds like a real pleasant guy," Gar observed. "How did he die?"
            George looked sharply at Gar. "No, nobody killed 'im. Though there's lots would've liked to've had the pleasure. Heart attack, wasn't it Doc?"
            Logan shook his head. "A statistical impossibility. He would first need to have had a heart."
            "I thought you went over and had a look at 'im?"
            "Yes, yes. I was only making a small joke." Logan replied, repeating the dismissive gesture of waving his hand. "I went over and had a look at him. No marks on the body. He had a problem with his blood pressure and it was probably his heart. He was also dried up like an old boot from sitting in his truck in the hot sun for two days."
            "Dried up?" Gar asked.
            The Sheriff and Doctor nodded in unison. "Was over visitin' his maw," George related. "Leavin' Kirkwood fer home he just pulled over t' the side o' the road and died. Most folks reckanized the truck an' didn' wanna talk to 'im, so they just let 'er sit there. Two days afore somebody finally decided that was a mighty long sleep he was havin'."
            "Sucked every bit of moisture out of his body," Logan added. "Never seen anything like it."


            The Grove's graveyard was on a low hill behind the town. It was enclosed on three sides by a picket fence, and on the fourth side by several acres of trees. In the fence opposite the trees, a small gate gave access under a sign that read, "Webster's Grove Cemetery."
            At three o'clock in the morning, the Sheriff, the Doctor, and Gar were sitting in the trees behind the cemetery, not far from the newest grave. Each of them was wrapped in a blanket that proved less than effective in maintaining body heat.
            The ground was hidden by a foot of wet, thick fog. When the moon occasionally peeked out from behind a cloud, they could see before them a moving expanse of white, broken in places by the tops of gravestones, the gateposts and sign, and the top half of the picket fence.
            Hiding a cigarette under the blanket, Gar took a drag, as the Sheriff chattered on, his voice low, telling some story that would – if previous stories were any indication – fail to come to a point.
            "---looks down 'is nose at me – which was some tough since he was nigh a foot shorter 'n me – an' sez in his high toney voice, 'It would do you well, Constable, to be more aware o' yer place. Those of my position are never subject to the curious---"
            "Scurrilous," the Doctor interrupted his eyes still on the gate at the far side of the graveyard.
            "What?" George asked.
            "The word he used was scurrilous."
            "Now what kind o' word is that?"
            The Doctor turned his attention to Gar. "Whatever induced you to leave your home?" he asked, his voice still low.
            Gar shrugged, put his mouth back under the blanket, took a drag, and then released it into the fog. "Convinced myself that it was better for the folks; one less mouth to feed."
            "So I said to 'im, 'Duke, I know zacktly where yer place is," George interjected, attempting to return to his story.
            "I understood your family to be farmers," Doc observed.
            Gar nodded, took another drag, and then placed the butt under his heel.
            "So I give 'im a place. Locked 'im in a cell," George informed them. "He was mighty unhappy."
            "Serves him right," Gar responded to the Sheriff, and then turned his attention to the Doctor. "Yeah, feeding us wasn't a problem. We didn't have two cents, but we had food. It was just an excuse for a young fellow to run off and look for adventure."
            George shrugged and turned his attention to watching the entrance to the graveyard. There was no evident petulance or bitterness in either the shrug or his expression, simply acceptance. People had expressed a disinterest in his stories before, but he had found others who would listen. Admittedly, some of those who listened did so while waiting to be released from a cell, but they did listen.
            Doc smiled. "Did you find it?"
            Gar smiled wryly. "Yeah, I've run into adventure a time or two. Discovered it wasn't something anybody in their right mind wants to deliberately search for. Another word for trouble."
            Doc nodded and pulled his blanket tighter. Several minutes passed before he asked, "What have you seen?"
            Under the blanket, Gar began to roll another cigarette. "Well, I just came from Oklahoma. Spent the summer building some fence and corrals. Rode around and fed cottonseed cake to dyin' cows. Didn't like it much – dirt blowing all the time – but he paid me.
            "Before that I spent the winter in a line shack in Colorado. Made sure there was a hole in the ice so the cattle could drink. Helped with calving and spring round-up.
            "Last year I was in Nevada. Lawyer fella had a silver claim he wanted me to prove up on."
            "Not what I had in mind," Doc said. "I've seen a few places, although most of it has been toward the east. What I meant was, how are people handling this?" He waved his hand from under the blanket to indicate the world in general.
            Gar pulled his face under the blanket and lit the cigarette. He expected the Doctor was asking how people were handling the destruction of their lives.
            "Doesn't seem to be any in between," Gar responded. "Some people react with total panic and go running off in all directions. Others just hunker down and keep pluggin' away. Those that decided to run I see on freight trains and standing beside the road. They don't know where they're going but they're in an all-fired hurry to get there. The stubborn ones I wind up working for."
            There was a short pause before Doc responded. "It's quite amazing the stories we hear. those of us that are bound to our homes, I mean. Tall tales about how wonderful it is in Alaska or California. But we keep seeing people coming back that have just been there."
            As he blew out another stream of smoke, Gar nodded. "I haven't been to Alaska, but I was to California my first year out. I guess there was some work there, but they don't pay you enough to live. Or leave."
            There was another short pause, and then Doc asked, "How did you get out of California."
            Under the blanket Gar took another drag then looked at Logan with a glint in his eye. "I wasn't very nice."
            Doc Logan's smile was rueful. "Circumstance seems to cause a lot of that, these days."
            During the exchange with Doc, Gar's attention had wandered from how cold and damp he was. In the long silence that followed, awareness of his surroundings seeped through the thin blanket.
            Sometime later Gar whispered through chattering teeth, "This is a really good idea you boys had."
            "Sure wasn't my idea," the Sheriff responded. "Like muh comfort too much to come up with a scheme like this."
            "Shush!" the Doctor hissed. "Listen!"
            Within seconds the others heard it: the creak and rumble of a wagon, with the occasional click of a horse's hoof. The moon disappeared behind a large cloud, reducing the scene to a few light-colored rectangles and crosses from those grave markers closest to their position.
            When the moon appeared once more it revealed the wagon standing outside the cemetery gate, half of its wheels and the horses' legs lost in the fog. Two men descended from the wagon seat into the mist and moved silently to the rear. One man removed a large wheelbarrow from the wagon, and placed it on the ground. The second man removed a bulky but apparently light package, which he then placed in the wheelbarrow. The first man began pushing the barrow into the cemetery, while the second swung two shovels and a pick over his shoulder, and followed.
            An hour passed, an hour in which the three watchers sat in complete silence, blankets wrapped around their mouths so that the cold air would not make them cough. Despite this they each felt a compelling urge to clear their throats. Several times the moonlight vanished then returned.
            In the grip of complete, miserable, discomfort the watchers heard the shovels scraping on the pine box at the bottom of the hole. One of the diggers traded his shovel for the pick, and then disappeared back in the hole, now plainly visible, an island in a sea of fog. The squeal of protesting nails could be faintly heard as the top was pried from the coffin. Each digger took an end, lifted, and set the lid to the left of the hole on the pile of loose dirt.
            Working again from opposite ends, the two men lifted the body out of the grave, placing it on the right side of the hole. After climbing out themselves, they removed a tarpaulin from the wheelbarrow. Having wrapped the corpse in the tarpaulin, they placed it in the barrow, and rolled it away from the grave, and behind a large headstone.
            As the grave robbers began picking up their tools, Gar noted the location of the corpse and smiled. What better way of discovering who was buying bodies than by being the product purchased?
            As the weary diggers began carrying their tools back to the wagon, Gar tapped his companions, motioned for them to follow, and then moved out of the trees toward the wheelbarrow.
            Gar placed his blanket flat on the ground, and motioned for the Sheriff to lift one end of the corpse. Placing the bundle on the ground, they unwound the tarpaulin, allowing the body to fall on the blanket. Garnet then lay down on the tarpaulin, and the other two men wrapped him in it, picked him up and placed him in the wheelbarrow. Picking up the blanket- wrapped corpse, they retreated back into the trees.
            But things don't always work out as planned!
            For one thing, Gar had given little thought to the rough ground. As he attempted to play the part of a body that has achieved the point of complete relaxation, one of the grave robbers began pushing the wheelbarrow toward the wagon. At times Gar thought the bouncing would snap his neck.
            With a complete understanding of the feeling to be found in a corpse – along with callousness bread by familiarity – the grave robbers were not particularly gentle. They grabbed the bundle from each end, swung it up, and dropped it in the back of the wagon.
            Having felt and guessed what they were doing, Gar held his breath but had difficulty not crying out. "Let's be a little more gentle with the goods, boys," he thought. "You won't have happy customers if you deliver a damaged product."
            Soon the bouncing wagon was adding to his discomfort. He could also hear that the two men on the seat in front were having some discomfort of their own.
            With the recent outcry about the stealing of bodies, the grave robbers were beginning to worry about being caught. It was getting later than they had planned, and it was possible someone might be awake when they drove through The Groves. A wagon loaded with digging equipment and a wrapped bundle might cause questions.
            As they approached the edge of town, one grave robber said to the other, his voice low, "Gettin' mighty late."
            Gar could only assume that his companion nodded agreement.
            "Someone's liable to be gettin' up soon. Maybe that ol' gal runs the diner. Maybe see us."
            "Might," his companion acknowledged.
            There was a short pause before the first voice said, "What say we bring 'im up here an' prop 'im up 'tween us. Then, if somebody sees us, we're just three guys goin' to work. No reason to remember us."
            They stopped near the edge of town and dragged the bundle from the wagon bed, propping it up between them on the seat.
            As they approached the center of town, each grave robber was tense, pressing tightly against the corpse to keep it in place while watching for lighted windows.
            Suddenly, the bundled corpse shivered between them, and said in a high quavering voice, "Lord, its cold!"
            Not another sound came from the grave robbers. With eyes as big as their shovels they fairly flew from the wagon – the driver going right, the other left – running before they touched the ground.
            The Doctor took off in hot pursuit on the left, cursing with every step, his knowledge of English completely forgotten in the spewing of curse words. Going by on the right the Sheriff said nothing, concentrating instead on getting another wheezing breath. The horses stopped, returning almost immediately to their interrupted sleep. The "corpse" lay against the dashboard of the wagon, laughing uncontrollably.