Saturday, December 24, 2016

Short Story with History ... Enjoy

Here is a story I wrote several years ago concerning Alexander Mackenzie's trip through to the west coast. In his diary he remarked on how friendly the Bella Coola people where and how warlike the Bella Bella acted.
My immediate reaction was, "How friendly are these people, really? Even though there are parts and pieces of French, English, trade languages (Chinook) through which they can exchange information, did each group actually know what the other meant?"
I had also thought that the two groups as differentiated by Mackenzie where of the same people ... or thought I had read that somewhere ... so I looked into that. Yes, apparently they are Heiltsuk but some villages or clans could be more warlike than others.
The Bella Bella had good reason to be a little violent. Apparently some European traders had tried to lure them on to a ship and then capture them. This had resulted in some deaths and injury on both sides. There was a later incident where three Europeans where abducted and only escaped after several years (3 I believe).
Yes, the Heiltsuk people did trade with ships in coastal waters but both sides where very careful.
There are also several stories about shipwrecked sailors (fishermen?) washed up on the west coast and from the descriptions in those tales they where probably Asian.
So here is another of my short stories for your, I hope, enjoyment.
Leave me a comment, or click on one of the book covers to check out one of my novels. There are also links to video trailers for those novels over there; have a look at them.
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Mackenzie's route from Fort Chipewyan to the coast

Marker of stone.
By D.M. McGowan

          When I had seen eighteen winters, I left the village and traveled toward the rising sun for two days. On the third day I turned toward the home of the cold wind, and began a circle back toward the village. I searched for meat, but I found strangers.
          In the high land where the rivers flow in all directions, I began to hear strange, loud noises. Soon my nose could see the smoke of a poor fire, but the noises were nothing that I knew. I worked closer so that my eyes could tell my ears and nose what was causing this unknown thing.
At a place where the bank of the river is quite flat, there were many strangers. There was a family of Carrier people, who live in that land, and two of these strangers looked like the Cree people, that come from beyond where the sun rises. I had not seen these people until that time, but had been told of them.
          The other strangers were as nothing I had seen. They wore strange clothing, and all but one had faces covered in hair. Even the one whose face I could see had much hair under his nose. I had heard of white men who traded for furs along the shores of the Great Water, and saw that these men were like that.
          I knew then why I had not taken any meat during my hunt. These noisy strangers had chased all the game ahead of them.
          Moving back from their camp, I circled wide toward my village. I hurried to carry the news of the coming strangers to my father.
          I can not say why I began to travel from our village, for it was not a thing done by others. It made me different. There was a time when I was lost and very hungry and I ate the meat of a deer. From that day I was not the same as my own people who only eat fish. I was still welcome in my father's home, but all looked at me with different eyes. Because I was different, I knew of the strangers and could warn my father and the village.
          "Are they like the others?" my father asked, when I had told him of the noisy camp that I had found.
          "I was not yet of this world when the others came," I reminded him. "Only my father can know if these men are like those who came from the sea."
          I waited for my father's third wife to serve me food, before continuing. "I have heard my father's story of the yellow-skin men many times, and because of his great skill as a story teller, I do not believe these men who camp on top of the mountain are the same. One man has hair and skin the color of fire, and they all have much hair on their faces."
          My father nodded, and then quietly smoked his pipe for the time it might take an eagle to soar across our valley.
          "When the others came, some of them were good, and some were bad," he finally said. "One of our people who is a great boatman and fisherman is the son of the daughter of one of the good ones. One of our best carvers and his sister also carry the blood of a good man of yellow skin.
          "But many of the strangers cast up by the Great Water were not good men! All of their children have brought great trouble to our people. These children have been cast out of the village, or sent to the spirit world."
          He paused, removed his pipe stem from his mouth, and smiled at me. "Perhaps those sent beyond have learned better ways.
          "From our neighbors, the Bella Bella, we have also heard many stories about the men who trade for furs on the Great Water. But we know that our good neighbors sometimes have bad memories, so we must see these things for ourselves."
          He drew on his pipe before continuing. "You must return to this camp of noisy strangers that you have found. Offer to show them what they search for. You will spend time with them, then tell the council if they are good men, or bad men."
          "What is it they search for?" I asked.
          My father shrugged. "Fish? Furs? Perhaps to watch the eagle soar? Strangers have strange ways!"
          "And if they are good men?" I asked.
          My father shrugged again, puffing on his pipe. "We will show them kindness, and peace."
          "And if they are bad men?"
          My father removed the pipe from his mouth, and his eyes became hard as winter wind. "Then we will show them peace!"
          I hastily finished my meal, and then returned up the Great River to the top of the mountain.
          There is a good place to camp at the top of the trail where I waited for the strangers, hoping to watch as they settled for the night. When they arrived, I could see they were fewer in number. The Carrier people had left them so that now they numbered ten white men, and two Cree.
          Since the making of camp is the work of woman, the Cree did not help but stood near one side of the clearing leaning on long sticks. When the strangers were busy with fire and cooking, I made myself known to the Cree.
          I thought I had given the warriors enough warning, but perhaps their long time with the hairy ones had dulled their senses. When I appeared they where much afraid, and pointed the long sticks at me.
          The Bella Bella told stories of sticks that held death inside. It was said these sticks would let death out, hidden in smoke. Only those who faced the stick would see death.
          From the camp, in a language my father had taught me, a voice cried, "Stop!"
The Cree froze, still pointing the sticks at me, but glancing quickly at the one who spoke.
          Slowly I bowed toward the Cree, then toward the speaker, who was walking toward us. This one who gave orders was the only one who wore no clothes made of animal skins, and had less hair on his face than the others.
          "I welcome you to the home of the people of the sea," I greeted, in the language he had used.
          "You speak French!" he remarked.
          He did not sound happy to hear me use this language. I knew my use of this tongue would not be great for I only spoke it with my father who had taught it to me. But it was rude for this stranger to put the poor use of my father's teachings before my face.
          Perhaps the stranger could see in my face that I was unhappy, for he bowed low and asked me to step aside. I did not understand this, but took a step to the side, and bowed in return.
          "Welcome to our camp," he said. "Come, eat with us!"
          I nodded in agreement, but did not speak, concerned that my use of their language might offend them.
          When we had eaten much burned meat and drank a brew of boiled leaves, the chief of these strangers asked my name. When I told him, he looked puzzled, then said, "I will call you 'Spirit', because you appear from nowhere."
          He then told me his name, which I could not understand. Reaching out to his coat, I pinched the material and asked, "What is this called?"
          "It is cloth," he said. "Wool."
          "I will call you 'Wool'," I advised, "for you wear strange clothes."
          Several of the strangers laughed, though I had returned their leaders insult with one of mine. Then the leader said something in another language, and those who had sat with faces of stone, smiled.
          I learned two things about these men. They had not been taught good manners, but did not seem to mind when these bad manners were returned. It also appeared that not all of them spoke this language taught to me by my father.
          "How is it you speak the French?" Wool asked me.
          "I have learned from my father," I replied. "This language was taught to him before he was a man by those who came from the Great Water. They also taught him another language, which I have not learned to speak."
          I could see that Wool was made unhappy by what I said, though he tried to hide this distress while lighting his pipe.


          "It is far to this Great Water?" he asked.
          "Perhaps two days," I replied, pointing down river.
          "And these men who came from the sea," he continued, "can you describe them?"
          "This was long ago, before I came to this world," I replied. "It is a story from my father who was very young when they came. They were washed ashore by a great storm, lived with the people for two winters, then took a great war canoe, and disappeared back out on the Great Water. Two of them did not go, but stayed with the people."
          Wool showed much excitement. "Are they still at your village?" he asked.
          Shaking my head, I replied, "No, they passed to the other world when I was very young."
          Wool showed much disappointment. "How many seasons have passed since these people came?" he asked.
          Again, I shrugged. "My father is the oldest man there is. I am the only son that still lives, for all the others have gone beyond. He had seen few winters when these men came from the Great Water."
          "But you saw the two men who stayed," Wool said. "Where these two men like my people?"
          I shrugged. "My father says they had yellow skin, although I do not remember that."
          Again, Wool was very excited. He turned to a man who sat beside him, and said something in yet a third language that had many choking sounds. It appeared that none of the others understood this talk, for they all looked puzzled.
          Turning back to me, Wool asked, "Can you show us the Great Water?"
          The next day, when the sun was in the center of the sky, we could see my village far below. Wool paused near where I waited for them, and pointed to the trail of smoke far below.
          "What people are these?" he asked.
          "My people," I said. "Bella Coola."
          "We will be welcome there?" he asked.
          That was for my father to say, after I had told him what I had learned, but I did not lie. I nodded, and said, "My father is a great leader."
          That night in my father’s village, after eating much fish, the strangers slept very hard. We tested them as they lay, and found that it would take a great deal to wake them. My father told me that he was very happy that they trusted me so much, for if it became necessary to send them beyond, it would be easy to do so while they slept.
          The next day there was much trouble. The white man tried to make my people eat some of their meat, and I had to tell them that I alone, among my people, ate meat. I told them how the smell of meat would make the fish go away, so those who catch fish can not eat it. Some of the white men found this very funny, but Wool did not.
          Later, these same men who laughed caused more trouble, much as small boys sometimes do. They threw the bone from the meat at one of the dogs who promptly swallowed it. The owner loved his dog, so in order to avoid killing him, he beat the dog until it let go of this bone. Then these trouble makers threw a bone in the river, and one of my people who saw this jumped in and retrieved the bone.
          The bones were burned in fire, but the two men who retrieved them had to be purified. First they washed in scented water and sand, and then they washed in the smoke of a fire made from cedar and grass.
          Wool returned from his study of our village, or perhaps a study of the sun and sky that he was always making, and asked why these men where washing in the smoke. When I told him, he went to his men and they spoke quietly. Those who had caused the trouble hung their heads in shame.
          My father and I watched this from the entrance to his lodge.
          "They are like boys when they first become men," my father observed. "They are not bad, just foolish. It is good that they have a strong leader, but you must get them away from here."
          "They wish to see the Great Water," I told my father.
          "So, take them to the Great Water, then they will leave. We have had peace for many summers, but these white men will bring back war with their foolish ways." He turned and entered his lodge but then came back and added, “They are our guests so we must see to their safety. Those of the other clan, the people of Bella Bella hate all white men and there will be fighting. Or perhaps these …” he gestured toward the white men, “these children will cause trouble with our own people. Then when the big canoes come on the Great Water they will no longer trade with us. Take them to the Great Water, let them see it, then have them go.” He turned back into the dimness of the lodge.
          With the help of a few well picked men, and three canoes, I arranged for the white men to travel to the village of my uncle.
          Uncle greeted us at the water's edge and presented a great feast. After much food we slept there, then returned to our canoes and went on to the Great Water.
          Later that day, two canoes of Bella Bella people came out from shore to meet us. Their chief said that he knew all about white men, and had just shown some of them the power of the Bella Bella people. Then he jumped in our canoe and demanded that we take him to the path leading from the shore to his village.
          While we paddled to that place, Wool asked me what was said.
          "The Bella Bella trade with the white men who come in big canoes, out on the Great Water," I explained. "Then they trade with other people for these things."
I gestured toward the chief of the Bella Bella. "This one says that a short time ago he was badly treated by white men in a big canoe, and that his people defeated them in battle."
          Wool looked at the two canoes of Bella Bella and asked. "Is this dangerous?"
          I shrugged. "The Bella Bella people are very loud, and cause much trouble. They are of our people, but unlike those of my father’s village and my uncle’s village these people like war very much. My people try to stay away."
          "Were many people killed in this battle he speaks of?" Wool asked.
          Again I shrugged. "The Bella Bella people have poor memories," I advised.
          At Wool's look of puzzlement, one of the Cree said, "He means they are liars."
          When we reached the shore, the Bella Bella left our canoe, and we backed away into the water. He had wished to take the death sticks of the white men, and was not happy as we paddled away. He danced on the shore and made a great noise.
I directed the canoes to the place where the empty village stands by the rock. Wool was happy with this place, and we placed our camp on top of the rock, where we might see the Bella Bella if they came to cause trouble.
          We stayed there for three days. Each day Wool would look through a thing at the sky, then shake his head in sadness. Two other white men spent much time looking at the empty lodges and trash in the old village. Finally, on the third day, I told them that I would leave them to the Bella Bella if they did not come with me. I had to make them leave our land, as my father had said.
          Wool showed me this strange thing he used to look at the sky and said, "I need to find out where we are. I am keeping a record."
          "You are on the Great Water, near the river of the Bella Coola," I told him, though I thought he should already know this. "You are also near the home of the Bella Bella who would like to send you beyond and take your things to their lodges. We must go!"
          "Then leave me a canoe and go back," Wool said. "I will try one more time to read the sky, and then I will follow."
          Wool and two other white men stayed at the old village. As we paddled away, I could see him making marks on the big rock.
          The next day Wool and his men caught up to us, and we entered the village of my Uncle. The Bella Bella where already there, and almost brought death to some of our people with their trouble. They hid in one of the lodges when Wool and his people pointed the death sticks at them.
          To the Bella Bella I said, "You will leave this place or the white men will kill all of us. You can come back and trade when the white men are gone."
          Then I went outside and said to Wool, "Let the people of the loud talk go to their homes. Then we will all go up to my father's village, for there is no happiness here."
          Wool agreed, and his men did not point their sticks. The Bella Bella people went to their village, and we went to my father's.
          This was a very close thing, but it was not over. We still had the white men and all their trouble for one more day. That day was spent at my father's village, and passed with no further trouble.
          When they left the next day, I followed to make sure that they left our land. One of the Cree was not well, and had to be carried by Wool when they crossed the river, but leave they did. As they climbed the cliffs out of our land, I watched them until I could no longer see them.
          Two days after Wool and his men had left, I borrowed a canoe, and went once more to the Great Water. I went to the large rock where I had seen Wool making marks.
          The marks had not been made deep in the rock, but had been put on it with the color of blood. I studied them for many moments but could not understand why Wool had done this thing. It was not pretty, like a drawing, nor did it tell a story, like the work of a carver. It did not help to make the stone look better, and was the color of war.
          I have remembered these marks, and will make them again, so that you will see.

Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Governmentium ... a NEW discovery!

I posted this first in December of 2014 because I thought it was entertaining although, sadly true. We've had some shake-ups in the political world since then in many countries and this is still entertaining and true.
We aren't getting what we pay for and paying for a great deal that the majority do not want.
It can still be a good day if you manage to have a laugh.

I must state that I did not write this.
I must then admit that I don't know who did or where it came from.
I was scrolling through some things from long ago and there it was.
Whoever wrote it, I thought it was funny, brilliant and, sadly, accurate.
Scientists at CERN in Geneva have announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new  element Governmentium (Gv). It has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons and 198 assistant deputy neutrons giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces coiled morons which are surrounded by vast quantities of right-on-like particles called peons.
Since Governmentium has no electrons or protons, it is inert. However, it can be detected because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. Even a tiny amount of Governmentium causes a reaction which normally takes only a few days to complete to four years or more to finish or resolve.
Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years. It does not decay but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium 's mass will actually increase over time since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientist to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical point of concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.
When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons. Vast sums of money are consumed in the exchange yet no other by-products are produced.

By the way, here is another page you can visit;
along with the videos and interviews off to the right.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Great Liquor War - a rhyme

Here is a rhyme I wrote which covers some of the story within the covers of my novel, "The Great Liquor War." I wrote it while delivering fuel in a dozen different places and since it was very rough, gave it to my wife who smoothed it out quite nicely.

The Great Liquor War Notes
By D.M. McGowan & K.L. McGowan

Hank had a gold claim in Rossland
Where he got some color, enough to meet his needs.
But decided he’d had quite enough of freezing
And water up to the knees.

In town he met a BC policeman
Who gave him an inside tip
On a major local attraction
Where he bet his gold … every bit

The bet paid off big time
Enough for a business setup
He felt he owed the cop for the tip
This Constable Jack Kirkup

So he headed up to Farwell
That had not long been a town.
A place enjoying construction,
They where laying a rail bed down.

Hank rounded up some horses
Mules, pack saddles and such
For hauling tools, food and clothes
To the construction bunch

Then the BC Provincial Policemen
And the federal Northwest Mounties,
Faced off with conflicting laws,
Jurisdiction, enforcement and boundaries

The BC cops, small force that they were
Had help from citizens through out the years
Propped up their numbers when needed
With auxiliaries and volunteers

Auxiliary Constables where sworn and paid
Though pay didn’t amount to much,
While Assistant Constables where volunteers
Citizens concerned with safety and such.
Hank felt indebted to Jack
And stepped right into the breach.
He felt not helping the cop
Would be cowardly and cheap.

But it’s good to know you’re needed
And sometimes good to be asked.
But Jack didn’t acknowledge his helpers
As he issued mission or task.

As the two groups of lawmen
Feuded one with the other,
The outlaws did as they chose
Sometimes without any cover.

So Hank lost livestock to the outlaws
And interrupted his own daily work
To help Jack with law and order.
A duty he never shirked

The outlaws thus emboldened
By the law’s internal fighting
Planned to rob a pay-train resting
On a secluded local siding

So what became of Hank
His sweetheart and the rest?
You’ll have to read the novel
To see who passed the test.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Who is Responsible?

In 1865, during a time of violent unrest the Rocky Mountain Rangers where formed to ensure security for those living on the Canadian frontier in the southern part of what is now the province of Alberta. (At the time part of the North West Territories). These men were ranchers and farmers but knew that when the military and police where otherwise occupied they (along with 200 other citizens) where responsible for the well being of the community.

 RMR Commander, Major John Stewart                   RMR. Henry Boyle

RMR Jack Clarck and his 1873 Winchester
As parents, responsible parents at least we try to teach our children values that will result in their realizing sustainable development, longevity, productivity and happiness. A study of history, even a short history of perhaps half a lifetime will show that a moral approach to life is the most promising way to achieve those goals. More extensive study of generations, eras or eons will show that those following such teachings constantly enjoy better long term results than those who are cheating, lying, stealing, and generally destroying.
So is that what we, as a society, do? Do we support those who espouse morality, truth, brotherly love and charity?
No, not in any significant way.
Oh sure, a few of us get together because we are embarrassed by a general response and we see that someone who has made significant contributions to our community receive at least some recognition. We all know of someone who has given unselfishly of themselves by volunteering, raising foster kids, and generally stressing their own well-being for the betterment of others. These efforts are recognized by an article in the local newspaper or perhaps on a blog like this one that a few people take time to read.
Why is so much accomplished through volunteer efforts? Why is there no money for decent military pensions? What about the workers out there, the equipment operators, warehousemen, computer techs, nurses, why don’t they receive livable pensions on retirement?
The news media has also upset me more than once. Too often I see coverage of killers, rapist, terrorist, and other slightly less despicable low-lifes continued on for hours, days or weeks when all they deserve is a nameless mention in order to warn other potential victims. The lives of the victims, who should be made into societal heroes are the ones not mentioned.
I could continue in this vein but I’m getting depressed ….
The answer to all those questions is that we throw money at many things, places and people that don’t deserve it and didn’t earn it. Some one has done little (or nothing at all) productive is whining and complaining that “life isn’t fair” so we throw money at them – which they don’t fully appreciate and then they eventually want more.
So now we come to why I write the stories that I do.
Sure the primary reason is because I enjoy it, but I also enjoy having the “good guys” win. The characters sometimes do things that can be called questionable, but on the whole they are trying to do the “right” thing and because of that they defeat their opponents who often don’t care about right or wrong.
I find it comforting and entertaining when the people who should win do. I hope it relieves stress for readers. Above it should be entertaining.
Yes, it isn’t just the media, bureaucracy, or government that is responsible for the advancement of those who are unworthy.

We all are … including this writer of historical fiction despite my intentions.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Boys in the Battle of Britain

            This is a story I’ve posted before but I think it should appear again in recognition of Remembrance Day and of 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 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.
            Following the Battle of Britain he returned to Canada 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 aircraft on top is a P-51 Mustang the first of which finally appeared in Britain in October 1941. The first 93 shipped to England where equipped with 4 - 20 mm cannon (Mustang IA) unlike later versions which, like the US versions sported 4 - .50 cal. guns.
At the beginning of the Battle of Britain almost any aircraft available was used. The most successful and the one that could probably be said to have won the battle (if any single one did) is the Spitfire pictured on the bottom. They used 8 Browning machine guns chambered for the .303 British round.


Before men started shooting at him with 7.92 mm bullets 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 men from the southern States. Almost half the men stationed on the airfield were Americans who had travelled north to Canada and signed on with the RCAF.
Though they wore Canadian uniforms and insignia they were technically in Royal Air Force squadrons. Their squadron commander was a British major, and Harry’s wing commander a Canadian Lieutenant. 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 rumours 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 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, 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.”

Friday, November 4, 2016

Remembering Canadian Celebrities

This posting is originally from November 2014 and I repeated it in 2015. I am repeating it again this year and will probably do so in years to come since I don't want it and the two men mentioned to be forgotten.

In a few days I will re-post a story about a very good friend of mine, a vocalist, guitar player, marshal arts practitioner, insurance investigator and excellent pistol shot who served with the RCAF and was seconded to the RAF during the Battle of Britain.

Below is a repeat of something I posted a year ago to honor (specifically) two remarkable and (generally) a few hundred thousand.
Since November 11th has only been "Remembrance Day" (under more than one name) since 1919 and the end of WWI we tend to think it only applies to those who lost their lives in the wars since that date.
I disagree!
It applies to all those who put themselves in danger for their fellow citizens (not for some fool who told them it was "their duty.") and most especially to those who did not survive. That is to say it applies to many "enemies" as well as "allies" and includes those who came back.
Remember that those who came back seldom did so in the same way they left. All were wounded in some manner either physically or mentally. That is why the figure from above (a few hundred thousand) should probably be changed to a few million.
Remembering war and death will do more than anything else to ensure it does not happen again. Paying attention might help to make it not happen again.
Having ranted for awhile, here is the post from two years ago.
On October 22, 2014 a man shot one of Canada’s soldiers who at the time stood guard over the memorial for those who have defended our country and way of life and whose sacrifice is otherwise not recorded. He was also representing those men and women who have died to maintain the country and the freedom its citizens enjoy. As a serving member of Canadian forces he also represented those who did serve, survived and returned to live as a citizen and part of the fabric of this great country.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo. If you are a Canadian he represented YOU.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo. If you live in a country where you have the opportunity to express your views, however small and fleeting or large and long-standing that opportunity may be, then he represented YOU.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo. An attack on him was an attack on civilization.
Kevin Vickers, Sergeant-at-Arms within the Canadian Parliament buildings shot the attacker and brought to a halt this atrocity.
In Canada we have some of the best armourers and security training personnel to be found anywhere in the world. We have people with the fortitude – the “parts” if you will – and training to handle any situation that they may face.
Therefore the fact that Mr. Vickers stopped the attack before it became a massacre does not particularly surprise me.
The fact that Mr. Vickers had the training necessary does not surprise me too much since he is old enough to have, perhaps, received proper training such as is not usually enjoyed by some entering the security professions in the last few years. Perhaps he has had time to privately and at his own expense augment whatever initial training he did receive.
What does surprise me is that with the illogical and antiquated attitude toward firearms that is usually broadcast by the Canadian media Mr. Vickers was not only allowed to carry a firearm it was actually loaded and useful. I do expect our politicians will continue to spread false, misleading and un-supported information about firearms because they see such statements bringing votes ... even though it is obvious some of their lives were saved by a man with a firearm who knew how to use it.
I do hope a few real people (those who actually contribute thereby assuring the country grows and prospers) remember this event the next time firearms are vilified.
But more important, remember Corporal Nathan Cirillo.
Remember Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers.

The attacker? Forget him. He was either a fool who believed lies or he was unbalanced ... probably both. His only contribution was to provide a focal point to show how important real Canadians can be to each other and the continuation of the country.

In more than one of my novels I try to include characters who might represent those who have served. In “Partners” it is Thomas Simco Brash, born in Canada, who supposedly served with the British army in a variety of locations including India. In the same story are those who served on both sides of the US Civil War. Two characters in “The Making of Jake McTavish” are on their way to join Lord Strathcona’s Horse and many others.
Mankind has been doing this for a long time.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Place at the Table

A week or more ago I posted … somewhere … about an event that the Peace Region Songwriters are putting on December 2nd, 2016 with the assistance of the First Baptist Church, at 1400 – 113th Ave. in Dawson Creek. We put together a concert with performances by some of the members and support of others. We also have door prizes donated by local business. Admission is by donation and proceeds go to charity in an effort to see that at least some of the less fortunate have “a place at the table” during the Christmas season.
The doors are scheduled to open at 6:30 pm with presentation to begin at 7:00.
I have with the help of Brady MacTavish (edit) and Duart Stark (posting) some excerpts of “A Place at the Table” from 2015, primarily my own contribution (since clearance isn’t a problem) but with the theme song itself written by Linda and Bill Studley.
You can get an idea of what we offer at

Monday, October 17, 2016

More early Alaska Highway

Here are a few pictures I've come across over the years of the way things looked when the Alaska Highway was built. After the first rough trail was opened, a trail that took several days and often several weeks to negotiate, freight was hauled as was required. Sometimes to the various army camps, most of which where US Army but there where also civilian camps for those who followed the first trail and in later years Canadian Army camps.
Once there was a pioneer road that would (almost, or sometimes) hold up a truck there where civilian trucks hauling for commercial enterprises, trading posts and the army.
Both the US Army and the several civilian contractors who followed them used similar equipment so the Cat in this picture could be from either source. However, since there doesn't appear to be very many stumps in the trail I suspect this one is civilian.

Mechanics from the 93rd Engineers, 1942

341st Engineers on a structure they undoubtedly built and ...

... what it looks like driving over such a structure.
This depicts early attempts at civilian travel in 1943.
A great many things have changed since '43 such as the pavement that can be seen between the snow banks from this picture of Km 1639 taken on Feb.26, 2013. Something that hasn't changed is the marvelous scenery; that is the St. Elias Mountains in the background.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Road That Couldn't Be Done

There is an anthology (CD) being done by those who have written songs about the Alaska Highway. Recording is in process and a couple of weeks ago I went and recorded a short (4 line) voice over for Barb Munro’s song, “97th Regiment”.
            By the way, the 97th Regiment of the US Army Engineers was one of several regiments who helped build the Alaska Highway. At the time enlisted within the 97th where all black and may still be for all I know. Most were from the south and the winter of ’42-’43 was not a pleasant time for these young men.
            While I was at the studio I was asked if I knew someone with a poem or rhyme that would fit in with this anthology. I had to say no but thought it was a great idea and over the next few days wrote something. It wasn’t great but with some help and tweaking from Karen it turned out alright.

            Here it is.

The Road That Couldn’t Be Done
D.M. & K.L. McGowan

They came to build a road
That some said couldn’t be done
But they did it damn it and did it fast
And even had some fun

The US Army Engineers
Several regiments strong
Cut and slashed through timber
And laid it across the bogs

With local trappers, packers and guides
And with sightings to the sky
They found a way through passes
And over mountains where eagles fly

Civilians from all walks of life
From all across the land
From Labrador, Ontario
And down to the Rio Grande

They dropped them off at end of rail,
A place called Dawson Creek
A bunch of young eastern boys
Too excited to sleep

The final push to build it came
December seventh, Forty One
And before Christmas the following year
There laid the road that couldn’t be done.

Oh, and sure it was only a trail
With decades of work to be done
But now millions of travelers
Use the road that couldn’t be done.

I also have a couple of pics from back in the day …
Charlie Lake Store 1942

Fort St. John, 1942

Army Barracks, Fort St. John, 1943

Monday, August 22, 2016

High Rider by Bill Gallaher

He started life as a slave in South Carolina and became one of the pioneering cattlemen in that part of Canada’s North West Territories which eventually became the Province of Alberta.
            In 1867 with the US Civil War at and end John Ware struck off to the west, a new land and a new life. Due to his unsurpassed ability to break and train mules he found work on a ranch near Fort Worth where he remained for a decade. Eventually he went north as the horse wrangler on a cattle herd, lost good friends and found others, panned for gold, became a drover again and rode into Canada.
            This is a novel but as is usual with Bill Gallaher’s work it is well researched and faithfully follows the life of one of Canada’s pioneers. John Ware is a legend among those who study the history of horse trainers, cattlemen, bronc riders and the beef industry. With his entertaining and informative writing Gallaher should be.

            High Rider by Bill Gallaher is deserving of high praise and as many stars as are available.