Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Movie Depictions of the Canadian West

Renfrew of the Royal Mounted - The Royal Mounted Patrol - Rose Marie - Sergeant Preston of the Yukon - Steele of the Royal Mounted - Saskatchewan 




What do these early films have to do with the North West Mounted Police or history? Absolutely nothing! Members of the NWMP (and the RCMP) are people, not the supermen projected by Hollywood. Other representations of NWMP officers would make you think they never did anything immoral and stepped out of the pages of the Bible. For “people” take a look at “Gunfighters, Thieves and Lawmen” at https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B004V9WZVI

Within the story, actually the second chapter, two of the characters, a Mountie and a cattleman discus the attempts to find and arrest a man listed as Jean Baptiste on reservation rolls but known by his own people as Almighty Voice. This is actually an historical event and demonstrates the attitudes, both white and indigenous of the day and the racism that existed on both sides.

Almighty Voice 

No, I’m not saying that mistaken ideas or racism do not exist today but just that they are different than those ideas of 1897. I believe both sides have mistaken ideas of each other today and both are wrong.  I also believe both have racist attitudes concerning the other today and both are in error. At least now each is doing some study of the other but in 1897 there was no study, just guesswork that suddenly became "fact".

Both the initial event that led to Almighty Voice becoming a fugitive and the eventual conclusion of the case did not display exemplary police work. The very best that can be said is that actions by members of the North West Mounted Police during the two year chase were less than laudatory. 

That is one of the reasons I write stories about the opening and settlement of the Canadian West. I like to see at least a smidgen of truth appear about the time.

Another reason and the reason I use “historical fiction” is there doesn’t seem to be any real people, a shortage of effort and little entertainment in Canadian history. Our railroads, for example seem to have been built by forceful businessmen, magnates if you will, and somewhat questionable deals made between them and the Federal Government. The actual 'builders' those doing the work are often conspicuous by their absence. Mention can easily be found about miss-treated Chinese on the Rocky Mountain to West Coast section (which will be up-coming in a novel I’m working on) but little has been written about those who worked 12 and 16 hour days laying ballast, cross-ties and rails across the prairies. It isn’t hard to find some information about the companies who built the railroads receiving every second quarter section of land along the right-of-way but little is written about how that interfered with those who tried to homestead the land or buy it out-right for cereal crops and livestock.

Entertainment itself that includes mention of Canada’s history is not particularly hard to find. The American film industry (movies and TV) have a few dozen offerings but it is difficult to find anything in them that is not entertainment – or anything similar to what it was actually like. Canadian offerings, though very few exist have been somewhat better but there is nothing that I am aware of that might be called “factual”.

One notable exception is a made for TV series I remember from the 1960s (?) called “Chilcotin” (I think) much of which was filmed on location (Central BC west of the Fraser River). It was very entertaining, the beginning of the careers of some (such as Chief Dan George) and gave the viewer some idea of what happened during the cattle business work day in that area. Sadly none of the film exists today but it was based on the work of Paul St. Pier and his short story collection, Smith and Other Events: Tales of the Chilcotin which can be found at https://www.alibris.com/booksearch?mtype=B&title=smith+and+other+events

                    


                                             

However, if all one wants is entertainment, some “Hollywood” offerings are certainly that. “Dan Candy’s Law” (aka “Alien Thunder” from 1974) starring Donald Sutherland is one such and is an attempt to relate the story of “Almighty Voice” mentioned above. The writing was done by W.O. Mitchell and when the producers strayed too far from history and created their own story, Mitchell demanded that his name be removed from the production. It can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=alien+thunder+1974  but be advised that my representation in “Gunfighters, Thieves and Lawmen” is probably closer to history.



Another piece of Canadian entertainment is “Saskatchewan” (1954) which I like even though it has very little if anything to do with history. It has Alan Ladd, Shelley Winters, Hugh O’Brian, Jay Silverheels, Robert Douglas …a great cast. I also knew one of those who worked with horses off screen and had a few stories to tell in the bunkhouse.


Alan Ladd, Shelley Winters, Jay Silverheels

Here are links to a slideshow and the actual movie

 Saskatchewan slideshow - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnvd3X12dok

Saskatchewan movie - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6bPMRVE5Ew

 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

 

An excerpt from “Homesteader: Finding Sharon”


 At the end of "The Great Liquor War" (excerpt below) the woman that Hank thought would be his partner disappears. In "Homesteader" he and a part Sioux freind travel east across the Rockies to see if they can find her. They do, but then Hank wonders if that was the right thing to do. While he decides how his life will develop, they choose to take advantage of the Homestead Act and develop their own cattle business. Of course, that doesn't sit well with an established big rancher who is also a bully and something of a sociopath. 

This is a view of Calgary at about the time depicted in "Homesteader" looking north from the river about 1885


This is a view of Calgary looking west toward the Rockies in 2013

Following a breakfast at the Stockman's Kitchen, Harry rode south and west looking for some of his distant relatives. I had explained what I thought were the requirements for a successful ranch, and he was to see if anyone knew of places that filled those needs. I also wanted him to look around for horses. With the smoking of pipes his inquiries would cause, coupled with the need to show hospitality, and the need to show deep appreciation of that hospitality, we agreed he would probably be gone for a week.

          I spent the morning repairing equipment. One of the pack saddles was getting loose, so I tightened some of the bolts, and then bound it up with new strips of rawhide. After that I re-shod the one pack horse that hadn't been done before we left the west slope of the mountains. I bought the bar stock from the livery operator and used his forge whenever I could do so without getting in his way.

          "You done that a time er two before," he noted when I had finished.

          I had been making and mounting horse shoes for almost ten years, even though I was only twenty three at the time, so I didn't think it was such a big thing, but I agreed with him.

          "Yuh could make ye some money, was ye a mind," he said. "I got me more 'n I c'n handle here, but help's hard t' come by. Oh, there's cowboys think they c'n mount a shoe, but I seen some o' their work. Ain't no wonder their horses is always kickin' 'em. Some feller put such a fit on me own stompers, reckon I'd be puttin' up a fuss, an' it'd be more 'n a kick. There's a few good smiths in the country, but they's workin' fer the big spreads. Hell, up t' the headwater o' the Red Deer River there's one o' them big English outfits got them three smiths. Anyhow, I'd like t' hire ye t' work 'roun here."

          I shrugged. "Well, no reason why I couldn't, for a while. My friend an' I have a few irons in the fire, but I have t' wait for him t' get back, an' I expect he'll be a week. Up 'till then I'm not doin' much else."

          The smith nodded and extended his hand. "Name's Cooper, Billy Cooper. Most folks call me Smithy, but that's what I do."

          I shook his hand and gave him my name.

          "Hank James," he repeated, then gestured for me to follow him as he walked back to the corrals. "Ye'd be the feller what was runnin' freight over the mountain."

          I nodded. "How would you hear of that?" I asked.

          "One o' them bosses built the railroad mentioned ye a time 'r two." He leaned on the corral where six draft horses were held.

          "Ross, the engineer," I responded. "Not with much pleasure I'd say."

          Cooper grinned. "Oh, a time 'r two he said ye was a hard worker an' honest, but mostly he said ye was upitty." He gestured toward the horses. "These six need t' be shod. That'll keep ye goin' fer the day."

 

          Four days later I was wore out. My timing was about right, for by then Cooper's work was caught up. I went up to the Stockman's Kitchen for an early supper.

          That was also the afternoon I made one of the many big mistakes I've made over the years. After a hot day over the forge I decided to have a cold beer.

          The saloon in the Victoria House was much like many others to be found in that day. A wood floor covered with sawdust to absorb the spilled drinks, a few round tables, and a bar. However, rather than being planks held up by whatever was handy to support them, this bar was all of twenty feet long, highly polished and with a brass foot rail. The back bar held several bottles, mugs, and glasses, all of them glistening like the mirror that doubled their number. The mirror itself was a notable feature, even considering the advent of the railroad, but, as usual, the place didn't have enough windows.

          "You're starting early," the bartender commented as he set the beer in front of me.

          I placed a nickel on the bar and took a sip. It was cold and very good. "It's been a hot day. I'm surprised you’re this quiet."

          He shrugged and took a swipe at the bar. "Usual for this time of the day, particularly a Friday." He glanced behind him at the wall clock. "There'll be a train through in about an hour, and after that there'll be farmers in for tomorrow's market. By six she'll be roarin' and stay that way until closing. And it'll be roarin' all day tomorrow until closing." He gestured at the tables and chairs. "Lotta deals 'll be made in here tonight and tomorrow."

          I nodded. It would be the same with every saloon in town. Livestock would be sold, labor hired, and services contracted. Men who hadn't seen each other for years or miles, some of them family members, would visit for a few hours at these tables.

          The doors flew open and Portis Martin swaggered in with two other men. The young man who thought he was a gunfighter was not one of them. I expected he was still nursing a broken leg. Martin's mouth flashed a big smile that looked all wrong under his cold, sneaky eyes.

          The one man that had been there at our first meeting was speaking as they came through the door. "I think you're floggin' a dead horse there, Port," he said. "Far as I bin able t' find out, ain't nobody gets a tickle from that boss lady. She runs the herd, but she ain't part of it."

          Martin laughed. "Hell Tom, she runs a whore house don't she? That makes her a whore. You just haven't been talking to the right people."

          It wasn't hard for me to figure out who they were talking about. And it didn't do anything to make me like Martin.

          The three of them stepped up to the bar. "What the hell's keepin' you, barkeep," Martin bellowed. "Let's have a bottle here. Good sippin' whiskey. Not that coal oil you sell to the farmers."

          What Martin had just done was not something you did out loud in that country at that time. The North West Mounted Police had eliminated the sale of hard liquor in the country they controlled. If you had a bottle of liquor in your possession you where supposed to have a permit. If you came into a saloon and wanted liquor you asked for it quietly and the saloon would give you a bottle and a permit so that if anyone asked, it was your whiskey and you where supplying a few drinks for your friends. It had not been sold to you by the establishment. By being loud and obnoxious Martin had just put the saloon in peril of being shut down.

          He turned his attention to his companions. "I tell you, men, I'm gonna get me that whore, an' I'm thinkin' tonight's the....." He broke off when his eyes fell on me.

          "Well, would you take a look at that Tom. There's one of them drifters from last week." He poured three shot glasses full of whiskey, and then swung the bottle to indicate me. "Jack, that's the fellow that was ridin' the black horse that bit Jumper." He raised his voice, even though he could probably be heard down by the railway tracks. "Come on over here, drifter," he called. "Portis Martin's buying the drinks."

          I held up my beer mug. "Thanks, but I'm doin' fine with this," I responded.

          His phony grin slipped from his mouth leaving only the coldness in his eyes. "You think you're too good to drink with us?"

          I planned to settle in the area, and didn't want to cause trouble, so that's when I made my mistake. "Settle down, Martin," I responded. "If it's all that important t' you, I'll have a drink o' your whiskey."

          As I moved down the bar, the bartender set up another glass which Martin filled.

          "You'd best have a couple," he said. "Young Rusty's got himself a broken leg, and it's you he blames. He's pretty good with that Colt he carries ain't he boys?" The other two men nodded. "Yes, sir, he's liable to shoot your buttons off when he gets to walking again." He put his hand over the shot glass and slid it toward me.

          "Might be a little tough doin' that 'round here," I observed. "Mounties take a dim view of folks packin' iron." I downed the whiskey. It was obvious to me that Martin didn't know what good whiskey tasted like. The stuff was awful.

          "Only here in town," Martin responded, and then started to refill my glass. "You don't figure to spend the rest of your life here in town, do you?" He finished pouring, and then looked up at his companions before turning his gaze to me. "Then again, Rusty finds you after you've left town, I guess you will have spent the rest of your life in town." He roared with laughter as the other two men chuckled and nodded.

          I smiled in response, took a drink of beer to get rid of the taste of the whiskey, and then set the mug on the bar. "Rusty do anythin' besides shoot that Colt?" I asked.

          "Damn good cowboy," Tom responded.

          Martin nodded. "He can pick out a hurt cow better than anybody. Have the critter down and doctored before most men got their rope shook out."

          I took another drink of beer, replaced the mug and stepped away from the bar. "Well, if he's important t' you, be a good idea to keep him from chasin' after men he don't know. Lot easier t' look after cows from up on a horse than it is from a grave."

          I turned and started to walk past them. Martin reached out and grasped my arm. I just looked at him, then at his hand.

          He pointed with his other hand at the bar, and said, "You haven't finished your drink," he noted.

          I kept my eyes locked on his until he let go, then reached for the shot glass and downed the whiskey. I walked out.

          I only made it to the edge of the Victoria House when I realized something was wrong. I had first felt it hit me in the saloon, but thought it was just because I needed to eat. By the time I made the boardwalk I was having trouble staying upright. True, I wasn't much of a whiskey drinker, but two shots and half a beer should not have had the effect they were having. I went down the alley along side the building, leaning on the wall, but the wall kept moving away from me.

          I found myself laying in the dirt and thinking, "He drugged the whiskey."

 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

An excerpt from "The Great Liquor War"

 The Great Liquor War


Here is an excerpt from “The Great Liquor War”. My story here is wound around an historical incident during which the North West Mounted Police (here represented by my fictional, Sergeant Rawn) and the BC Provincial Police (Represented by Constable Kirkup).

Though Constable Jack Kirkup is an historical character my representation probably has little to do with the real person other than his being (apparently) a very big man.  

The first part of this piece is the first private meeting of the main protagonist, Hank James and Sharon Dalton who becomes the focus of Hank’s search at the beginning of “Homesteader: Finding Sharon”  a sequel to “The Great Liquor War.”

The last part contains a formal report by Constable Kirkup for his superiors. (Totally my manufacture) which is meant as a lead into what is happening with the local “outlaw” element.

“The Great Liquor War” was originally published in 1998 and all copies quickly disappeared. I eventually had it re-published as a POD in 2015. Yes, there are probably errors in the new version as well, but I tried to ensure there wasn’t … but that’s life.

The first cover above is from the first edition and the second is the latest which is available in digital and print versions.

Here is one of the reviews, this one from On Line Book Club …

The Great Liquor War is action-packed and entertaining. Hank (main protagonist) is quite likeable … easygoing and has an amusing dry humour which is edged with sarcasm, making his narrative hilarious!
There was not a single dull moment in this book. This is largely due to its colourful characters, from tough, no-nonsense police officers to pompous judges.
There was not a single dull moment in this book. This is largely due to its colourful characters, from tough, no-nonsense police officers to pompous judges.
Because of the engaging plot, I found that my enthusiasm for the book remained high all the way to the end and did not wane.
I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. It deserves nothing less.
And here is a posting from Global Network …

“I’m real sorry I give you that impression, ma’am. Matter o’ fact, I’m downright embarrassed anybody’d think I’d blackmail somebody. I take pride in doin’ the right thing, an’ spend a lot o’ my time tryin’ to figure out what that is. Forcin’ somebody to do somethin’ they don’t wanta do just ain’t right.

          “Now, I also figure you must have a good reason for not talkin’ about your past, an’ I sure don’t wanta say somethin’ to somebody that might embarrass you. That’s why I mentioned it the other night. No other reason.

          “I think I mentioned that I thought I knew you, but I didn’t know from where ‘till Jack Kirkup told me your name was Dalton. It come back to me then. You were a little tom-boy playin’ with us on my cousin’s place. Your name was Sweeney, or some such ...”

          “Swanell,” she said.

          At that point the waiter returned with the fresh tea. I thanked him and waited until he left the table.

          “Okay, Swanell,” I echoed with a nod. “I ‘spect you married one of that bunch that was related somehow to Frank an’ Jesse. Related by their momma’s second marriage, as I recollect. Now, you didn’t go back to your maiden name, so you can’t be workin’ all that hard to hide. On the other hand, you haven’t mentioned that you knew some of the more notorious people of the last few years. I reckon you must have a reason for that, so the only reason I mentioned it was I didn’t wanta do somethin’ might put you in a bad spot.”

          “And that is the only reason you asked for,” she gestured toward the room, “this?” Her tone wasn’t exactly disbelieving, but more flat and reserved.

          I shook my head. “Had nothin’ to do with why I wanted,” I mimicked her gesture toward the room, “this. I was taken with your appearance. Mostly, I guess, with the way you handled the poor way Sproat treated you that day out in front of my barn. Then, when I figured out who you where I got to thinkin’ we had some things in common. When we were kids we knew the same country. Maybe even had some of the same things happen to us. Mostly I was interested in you and wanted to get to know you better.”

          She remained quiet, her hands still clasped on the edge of the table in front of her and eyes on me as I poured tea. After a long silence I asked, “What would you like for desert?”

          She cleared her throat, and then asked what was offered. I called the waiter over. When he left with the order she reached across and put her hand on mine as it rested on my tea cup. “I’m sorry, Henry,” she said.

          Now, food is one of the things that makes life worth living for me. Most of my life it’s been nothing special, but I take great pleasure in it when it is. I don’t even mind it when it’s not too good, just filling. Except for the tea, I don’t remember anything about what we ate that night. But I still remember what Sharon looked like.

 

                             ************************************

 

          Later that evening, something happened that served as an additional embarrassment for the Mounties. It became another reason for the Federal Police to insist they were right in confiscating Hill’s goods. Because of their rule about keeping booze away from the railroad construction there was some support for their view of the Hill matter, but there was no doubt the new event put egg on their face.

          Sergeant Rawn of the Mounties had been spending far too much time in one of the gin mills in Farwell. The establishment in question was probably not completely legal, if at all, and not the place for a police officer to be seeking refreshment. It was certainly out of the question for Rawn to be there in uniform. However, he had reasoned that it was outside the ten mile border from the rail line - and would be for a few more days - therefore not within his area of responsibility.

          Many animals show great displeasure with those who smell of spirits, and horses are no exception. When Rawn attempted to leave town that night his mount took exception to the strong alcohol fumes emanating from him. When he tried for the third time to put his foot in the stirrup the horse swung around hard against the policeman. Sergeant Rawn was propelled violently through the front window of the Chinese laundry.

          The laundry was a busy place in those days. Work was still going on within and would continue until well into early morning. Mrs. Cora Emery was near the front of the building wrapping finished work for pickup the following day. Now Mrs. Emery was a strong supporter of temperance. Her late husband had died due to the poor judgment and slowed reflexes brought on by strong drink, forcing her to work long hours in a place operated by what she thought of as Asian heathens. It was suggested by some, perhaps unkindly, that Mr. Emery’s penchant for drink was his only means of expressing independence in the face of Mrs Emery’s great strength and strong stand against alcohol. Within a few seconds of their first volatile meeting, Sergeant Rawn was to agree that Mrs. Emery would drive anyone to drink. When he, and the offending odor which accompanied him, entered the laundry in such an explosive manner, she turned from her work to the broom leaning against the wall.

          Mrs. Emery’s strength was not confined to her over-zealous fight against the consumption of alcohol. Some of the kinder souls who knew her described her as being substantial. That night she used this substance to swing the broom repeatedly against the Mounted Police Sergeant while she described his lowly character in a firm, loud voice. She was accompanied by the Chinese owner; yelling in excited, high-pitched Cantonese.

          The sound of broken glass, bellowing English and screeching Cantonese to the beat of a broom filled the early morning. Naturally, such a fuss was bound to attract attention. At such a late hour there were few to respond except the patrolling policeman. Constable Kirkup was present to help Sergeant Rawn as he attempted to escape over the window sill and onto the boardwalk. Relieving Rawn of his pistol, Jack marched him down the street and threw him into the lock-up.

          At the time, Sergeant Rawn was grateful for the help.

 

          Following the incident, several interrogations were conducted by members of the Provincial Police. It should be noted that very little of this information is suitable for presentation to the court, but has been recorded strictly as a source of information for future investigation.

 

Constable J. Kirkup

 

          There was a meeting in the Montana Saloon witnessed by the bartender, Shorty Leaman, or Short Shot as some called him behind his back. Bulldog Kelley, Jack Myers, and Frank Spencer sat at the plank table at the back of the tent. Kelley was the man behind most illegal operations in the area. Frank Spencer was his second in command and Myers was one of their gunmen. They didn’t commit all the local crimes, but they did demand a percentage of the take from those who did.

          “We got us a gold mine here, boys,” Kelley said. “With these clowns fightin’ between themselves there’s nobody ‘round to stop us.”

          Spencer shrugged. “Maybe an’ maybe not. They might just take a notion they’re too busy to follow the finer points o’ law. Them Mounties got a reputation fer bein’ somewhat sudden when they feel the need.”

          Myers grinned. “Ain’t no reason we can’t be just as sudden,” he said.

          “That’s the idea,” Kelley said, dropping the heel of his hand on the table. “‘Sides, they’ll be too busy to even be around. I wanta see another tent set up closer to the railroad so we can get more money from them gandy dancers. Two tents. One full o’ women an’ the other full o’ booze an games.”

          “That’s chicken feed, Bull,” Spencer interjected. “If we set quiet an’ let them work on each other they’ll forget about us. Then we can step in an’ take some o’ the big ones. Maybe a payroll or two. Hit the banks an’ the railroad all to once. Then we just drift outta the country.”

          Kelley rubbed his unshaven face with his large hand. “Yeah, that’d work, too. You work on that Frank, but while you’re doin’ it, work on the other. Find a place to set up them two tents. And send some boys up into the Big Bend country. There’s some o’ them dirt washers up there got gold in their cabins. And a few of us best work on makin’ sure this disagreement doesn’t end too soon. Yeah, we might just drift outta here all right, but while them lawmen is squabblin’ we’ll strip the country.”

          Spencer’s face retained it’s usual lack of expression as he looked at Kelley’s scowl and Myer’s devilish grin. He shrugged his resignation and said, “Whatever you want, Bull.”

 Check it out at https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B004V9WZVI

rug where you'll find hours of entertainment for $1.10 to $15.00 USD

Friday, December 18, 2020

Half Way There

 

Half Way There from guest blogger, D.J. McGowan

I was going to continue my theme about movies/stories/ entertainment this week but I saw a post from my son that I liked very much and asked if I could post it here. He agreed.

Despite all the lock-downs, deaths and over-loaded hospitals the world has been experiencing over the last few months we still hear/see statements made that this is all a conspiracy of the “one world government”.

Give your head a shake; at government meetings even allies can’t even agree on what coffee will be served. If they do agree it’s because they made some concession on another subject.

As a result I found the following post by Douglas J. McGowan to be interesting, entertaining and timely.

Doug worked in retail for a couple of years before joining the Canadian Army. He was with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, the R.C.A.F. as a meteorologist, and retired from the Royal Engineers as a Master Corporal. He presently traverses Western Canada as a Commercial Driver.

Below his picture is his “half way there” post.

 


 

Ok friends, we’re about half way there. I spent a lot of time with my grandpa when I was little, he never spoke much, but one thing he did let me know was when we were half way there.

Grandpa Royal watched his dad die of a heart attack on the kitchen table when he was 11. To support his mother and two sisters he went to work running the horse teams skidding logs to clear all those beautiful back roads in the Blue Mountains of Ontario we all take for granted. Then he’d come home to the farm and do chores.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 7, and I lost her at 9. She spent a lot of that time in hospital, and I spent a lot of that time with my grandpa.

Now 50 years after he himself was that young boy working in the bush, I was there, and grandpa had left the horse teams for an antique JD caterpillar that he always kept well painted and clean.

When my age was still in the single digits, I had learned to stand well away from that steel cable under tension when he was winching out a log. It was a good thick cable that would most likely never snap in another 50 years, and I don’t think it ever did, but he taught me to stand back and knowing an 8 year old child probably had about the same patience as a young colt, he’d always tell me when we were half way to getting the log out, and half way to the total time I needed to remain in the safe area. I was also always told which field had the bull in it. It’s not that I ever was afraid of anything, it was just that obeying grandpa was the right thing to do.

Ten years later when I went to the Infantry, I learned not to step over a log when scouting, and not to put a mag on or a round in the chamber until the RSO told me to, and I checked my fire when the Umpire Staff told me to. It was made clear to me some decisions weren’t mine to make. The probability of anything happening was negligible, but to obey was the right thing to do.

Now I wear my H2S monitor on lease sites and at loading Plants. I sit in my cab and fill out my Last Minute Risk Assessment, and if the site boss tells me to walk around in my sock feet, well, I walk around in my sock feet.

We’re about half way there folks - we still have to get the work done. The firewood has to be got, our level of capability has to be maintained, and productivity needs to be supported, but let’s do all we can as individuals to control our environment and keep others safe, because it’s the right thing to do.

 D.J. McGowan

Saturday, December 5, 2020

I’ve always been a big movie fan

I just love the “view”.

Not so much the screen showing clothes, or pretty women or so-called “glamour” but the look into a different world than the one I inhabited. The look into the world of war (seldom depicted as ugly as it is) or a story about the experience of escaping from war. (“Oh, it’s all about great songs and harmony singing?” Sure it is.) Perhaps it's a chance to use deduction to solve the crime before the writers reveal the solution. It was entertainment from a different place and it can show the viewers how to make entertainment in their own world.
    As said in a line from a Jim Stafford song, "take a trip and never leave the farm".

     

Then I began to study the writing, acting and directing. Is it a good story? Could it be a better story? Do you believe the way he delivered that line? The character he created? Why did they jump from New York to Arizona?


          Then there was a period where several movies were released that I had and still have no interest in. Yes, I saw a few and thought, “I could have written something more interesting than that” or perhaps, “A few plot twists might have made it interesting.” Not funny, not informative or enlightening, not glamorous, predictable --- just not “there”.

          But apparently they were “the velly height of awetistic expression, don’t you know,” since someone kept writing and someone kept producing them.

          “Well, if you don’t like what is available, tell your own story!”

          As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been around more than just a few days. I am relatively comfortable with my past despite having made several mistakes both embarrassing and serious. Therefore I have some experiences I can document and stories I’ve heard upon which I can expand. I’ve even managed an understanding of my own motivation and am able to make a good guess at others.

          So I started putting some of those stories in print. I found that I very much enjoyed the writing. When I later received comments about those stories I found I enjoyed that as well.

          There is another great benefit to writing.



          I’ve mention some of my favorite story tellers in previous writing. They include (and are not limited to) Michael Connolly, David Baldacci, Lee Child, Louis L’Amour, Tom Clancey and William W. Johnston. But after a while I find that I’ve read what is offered and I try someone new. If it is a story that I have to “fight my way” through then I sit down and write my own story. Usually, when I have completed this “new” story I can say, “There, that’s better.”

          But there is more to just the writing than the creating of enjoyment for the reader which, I tell myself, is what I am doing. When I am in “that place”, the world where the story takes place, I have “just taken a trip and didn’t leave the farm” and Jim Stafford’s Wildwood Weed had nothing to do with it.


Who is on your Christmas list?

Ship to any address for those versions in print.
Any email addresses for digital or Kindle versions.
"Look inside" before you order.
Isolated? Staying home?
Chose the best delivery date. Perhaps December 23rd us appropriate?
Or simple click on the cover of "Gunfighters, Thieves and Lawmen" off to the right --- that'll take you to the same place.

 


 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Do you remember the Fifty Cent Matinee?

 

Or the $1.10 Movie?





Average theatre prices in Canada – $15.00 – seniors $14.00 – children $13.00

So if you and your spouse and two young teens go to the movies it will cost you $56.00 plus any applicable taxes and the cost of refreshments. Now that’s reasonable. Going out for some entertainment keeps the family sane, avoids the mental and physical problems associated with being house-bound, keeps those in the theatre employed and contributes to a healthy economy.

There is a more important lingering reward. You will have an opportunity to ask everyone in your party what they liked, how they saw or now understood particular characters, or what they took away from the movie – joy, fear, hate, love. Those where questions my parents asked my brothers and I when we went to see things such as “Old Yeller”, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” “Shane” or “The Alamo” (1960).

Just think of that; a family conversation! What happened to them anyway?

You’ll notice up there I mentioned “younger teens”? That’s because in much of the world older teens don’t go anywhere with their parents. (“OOOH, how gross”). Perhaps much of that is due to parents not reading to their children when they are young and with them when they are older.

Yes, WITH them not TO them.

          Which brings us to reading.

          Take a look in your local book store or on Amazon books and you’ll find a Stephen King paperback for around $16.00 (USD) or a Kindle for $11.00 (USD). Michael Connolly hardcover, $29.00 (USD) or Kindle, $15.00 (USD) .  William W. Johnston, $9.00 and $5.00.

          So for as little as $5.00 or as much as $30.00 (still less than $56.00 and you got the popcorn out of the cupboard) you can have everyone reading the same story and then talking – yes, actually conversing – about a shared experience.

          And in addition, lately at least, you’ve been stuck inside anyway. With the on-line or Amazon access to these stories – and unlike the theatre version – you didn’t have to wear a face mask.

https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B004V9WZVI 



Friday, October 30, 2020

Deacon on Remembrance Day

 

Remembrance Day has rolled around once again and, as I have done in previous years, I’m posting my Battle of Britain story. However, this time Deacon has a new image since he is the lead in an anthology I published this year (Kindle only). I’m also including one of the rhymes that appears in the anthology, “Native Sons in WWI” which was prompted by a story Francis Beaton Jr. told of his experience.

Enjoy.

 


 

Deacon

Copyright © 2019 David M. McGowan

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system, without the permission, in writing, of the author.

 

The following story is a work of fiction. Any similarity between this storiy and any historical recording of events is accidental and highly unlikely. Any similarity between the characters depicted and any actual people, either living or dead, is accidental, highly unlikely and very flattering.

 

1940

             About half of this story is as it was related to me by the main character. On several occasions he gave me permission to use the story but I still changed his name. The nickname, ‘Deacon’ I retained for obvious reasons.

He passed on several years ago but ‘Deac’ was a very good friend with whom I loaded and unloaded many cartridges of a variety of calibers. I also had the pleasure of hearing his guitar behind my vocals on several occasions and playing both bass and rhythm guitar behind his excellent vocals.

            I’ve changed a few things but those who knew him will recognize the story and the man it portrays.

            The Battle of Britain having been decided in October, 1940 ‘Deac’ returned to Canada in ’42 and taught fighter pilots for the last few years of WWII. Following the war he did not stay in the air and came to regret it. In the early seventies he saw an article about the “Great Lakes” biplane being re-licensed and made available to the public once again. He managed to qualify for a private pilot’s license and to solo in a “Great Lakes” before his death.

            The fighter aircraft from Britain were most often the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire. The adversary they most often encountered was the Messerschmitt Bf 109 usually referred to by Allied pilots as an Me 109.

 

 

Deacon

By D.M. McGowan

 

 

Before men started shooting at him with 7.92 mm bullets from their Bf 109s Harry Burnside had been a singer. He stood in front of fifteen, twenty and sometimes thirty-man orchestras and sang the Dorsey, Kenton, or Ellington songs or whatever else the crowd in front and the band behind wanted to hear. He had worked his magic in Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and his home town, Windsor, Ontario. Harry thought it was only right to use his natural talent, his voice, to make at least part of his living. It had also been a great way to start a young life and learn the music and entertainment business from professionals. It was only incidental that it was the perfect place for a teenager to learn from the masters how to party.

Sometimes horrendous events are necessary to save a young man from himself. In Harry’s case it was the war in Europe that brought a young man’s party life to a close, at least temporarily. Of course it also accelerated the danger in that life.

Not that Harry rushed to a recruiting station in the autumn of 1939. Some of his young friends and even the older men he worked with certainly did. It was one of the older musicians who convinced him signing up for service was the thing to do.

“Folks ‘r sayin’ this here war is gonna be over in no time,” Marvin, a trumpet player said. “They is sorely mistaken. I bin readin’ up on these here Germans an’ they got ‘em an army. British ain’t got nothin’ an’ they’s gonna get whacked.”

“Are you suggesting we Canadian boys should go over there and get whacked, as you say, right along with them?” Harry asked.

“First off, I ain’t a Canuk, I’m a southern boy,” Marvin said. “Second, when things get tough they’ll be comin’ for us anyway. Might as well sign up for somethin’ you want t’ do instead o’ somethin’ the government thinks you’d be good at.”

“You’re country isn’t in it,” Harry pointed out.

“Not yet,” Marvin responded. “Now, you’ve been workin’ here an’ there along with singin’. I don’t got no income but my trumpet. A man signs up he’ll get three squares a day an’ a cot.”

Harry took a drink of his whiskey and water and cast his gaze around the musicians gathered in the late night or, to those who were not musicians, early morning booze hall.

“You know, Marv, I’ve always wanted to learn to fly a plane,” Harry said.

Marvin clapped him on the shoulder. “Now you’re talkin’, boy. Royal Canadian Air Force. What say we go sign up first thing in the mornin’?”

Harry looked at his watch. “Might I suggest early this afternoon? I might be awake by then.”

 

Somewhere between Windsor, Ontario and Ashford, Kent, Harry lost touch with Marvin, but not with other men from the southern United States. Almost half the men stationed on the airfield were Americans who had traveled north to Canada and signed on with the RCAF.

Though they wore Canadian uniforms and insignia they were technically in Royal Air Force squadrons. The squadron commander was a British major, and Harry’s wing commander a Canadian Lieutenant or “Leftenant” as the British officers insisted. The other two Canadian pilots presently assigned to their understaffed wing were actually from Arkansas. In the two man barracks enjoyed by RAF pilots one of those southerners, Otis Tyler was Harry’s bunk mate.

“Ah hear we all getting’ new radios next month,” Otis said as the two pilots walked down the hall one early morning in late August.

Harry shrugged with one shoulder as he held the door open with the other hand and let Otis out into the humid dawn. “Be fine if they’re better than the T9. But if they aren’t, well, I’m starting to get used to being up there all by myself.”

“Mighty handy fur tellin’ somebody where you’s ‘bout t’ crash,” Otis noted.

“As long as they work and you’re no more than a mile away” Harry countered. “The T9 is good for about that far. You’re probably better off depending on a farmer seeing you go down.”

Otis chuckled.

As they approached the mess hall their wing leader, Lieutenant Mapes reached the door and opened it for them.

“Good news chaps,” the officer said as the two non-coms passed through the door he held open for them. “Just spoke with the CO. We stand down today.”

“Excellent!” Harry said. “Now I can have some real breakfast and more than one cup of coffee.”

“Yuh all worry too much ‘bout that coffee thing,” Otis said.

“Quite good policy,” the Lieutenant said.

“Nothin’ to it,” Otis responded. “Yuh all just take an empty cola bottle up with yuh.”

“I say, old boy, a bit hard to pee in a bottle when one is trying to avoid the 109 that is glued to your tail. Not to mention that bottle flying around loose in the cockpit.”

“Yuh all make sure yuh strap it in so it don’ fly ‘round,” Otis said. “As fur takin’ a leak when Gerry’s on muh tail an fillin’ my magic carpet full o’ holes, why ‘bout then I don’ have no trouble passin’ water.”

Lieutenant Mapes laughed. Harry grinned and shook his head in resignation.

“Since we aren’t going up to be shot at, perhaps we could talk about something else?” Harry suggested.

“Our Calm Colonial boy is right once again,” Mapes said. “We have a day to repair gear.”

“And talk about new radios,” Harry suggested.

“There isn’t anything to talk about,” Mapes said. “I’ve heard the same rumors as you men. However, I haven’t heard anything from the Old Man and I haven’t seen any radios. Other than the 9 in my Spit that quit working entirely the last time I was up.”

 

Later that day, Otis asked Harry to join him and some other airmen to study and review the local ladies and pubs. However, Harry had grown out of the need to wake up with a pounding hangover. He had already had years of partying. Besides, bringing in bullet scarred Spitfires had made the drinking bouts seem very unimportant. His mates, often a year younger or more, still asked him even though he seldom went with them.

An hour after the other pilots had gone into town Harry walked off the base and caught a ride into Ashford. He walked the streets for awhile admiring the buildings and the history.

Occasionally a Junkers 88 would fly across the English Channel very close to the water, start a steep climb to miss the Cliffs of Dover and release a bomb mounted to its belly at the end of that climb. The speed of the bomber combined with the force of the climb would cast that bomb for a very long way and it would land wherever the laws of physics, geology, and aerodynamics might decide and no man could say. On that beautiful day in late August, 1940 a building Harry had admired moments before and at that moment was no more than a block and a half away, disappeared in a cloud of dust, smoke and noise.

Harry Burnside had been flying over Britain for three months. He had been as far as France on a half dozen occasions. He had no idea how many dog fights he had been in but had shot down three Me 109s and crash landed twice. He had landed successfully in Spitfires that probably should have quit flying several minutes before. He had been scared out of his mind on those occasions but had worked his way through it.

That day, on the streets of Ashford, after the completely random bombing of a very historic building, Harry Burnside could not control the choking fear.

Looking around he saw the sign for a pub, the Anvil and Hammer. He stepped through the door and saw ale glasses stacked on the bar. He turned the pint glass over and said to the barman, “Whiskey.”

The barman could see by the look on Harry’s face that discussion might be dangerous. He poured a shot into the ale glass.

“Fill it,” Harry ordered.

The inn keeper complied.

Harry downed the whiskey and noticed only in passing that it was smooth, a single malt.

            He put the glass back down on the bar and said, “Again.”

            Once it was full, he downed the second glass.

            He remembered opening the door to his barrack, but very little after that.

            Much later Otis Tyler returned to find his bunk mate, the man who usually refused to go drinking with his mates, passed out on the floor.

            “Burnside,” he said, as he picked Harry up and placed him on the bunk, “yuh all just like them travelin’ preachers back t’ home; preachin’ hell fire an’ brimstone then next thing yuh got some farmer’s daughter out behind the tent.”

            And that is how Sergeant Pilot Harold Burnside became known as “Deacon.”

 

 

Native Sons in World War One

By D.M. McGowan and K.L. McGowan

© 2019

 

Seventeen native boys left the Upper Peace

The only land they’d known, all in their teens.

They’d all grown up wild out among the trees.

Knew where to find pelts, beaver ponds or streams.

They hunted for their supper, trap or single shot

And only their mothers gave safety a fleeting thought

 

After two hundred years of Scott and Fleur de Lis

They knew some other talk, sometimes two or three,

English, French and German were spoken in the land,

And whatever tongue was spoken by their particular band

Some of them could read and write more than just their name

But the army didn’t care, green privates all the same

 

An amazing great adventure for young trapper men

From freedom of the wild to a Canadian Army pen

Across the land in trains, something never seen.

Mistreated by a Sergeant, but still bright and keen.

Dropped off in camps and marched around a square

“Dig some dirt from here and put it over there.”

 

On the trains again east to Canada’s Maritimes

March down to the docks in perfect double lines

Then up a gangplank to a big steel canoe

Then told to put their kit where you couldn’t fit a shoe

A dozen ships in convoy from the Bedford shore

But count on German U boats sinking two or more.

 

More camp time in England, weeks without the sun

Then finally sent to France to show them how it’s done

Trenches that collapse from rains that never end

Bodies on the wire or sprawled out in no man’s land.

All caked in mud, “Are they ours? Are they theirs?”

Days and weeks of boredom, then terror and despair.

 

Vimy Ridge, the Somme or maybe Regina Trench

Maybe English on the left other times the French

High Wood or Kitchener’s, Avion as well

With the Aussies at Gallipoli, some lived to tell

Passchendaele, Arras, knowing each the end

If not for the war, surely for the men

 

Métis, Cree and Dane a total of Seventeen

On a great adventure, young, naive and keen

But the Great War wasn’t a great place to learn

For seventeen go but only two returned.

 

For more short stories and novels visit

https://www.amazon.com/D.-M.-McGowan/e/B004V9WZVI

From that site you can enter any delivery address (including email for digital version) and any deliver date you desire (such as December 23rd)