Sunday, March 13, 2011

I'm Sorry, My Son - by the B&A Stowaway

Today in the News:  Welcome to our latest guest writer, the B&A Stowaway.  All I have to say for this man is that if I had a nickel for every time I broke the law with him in my youth, I'd be a very rich man.  Nothing too bad, just youthful carelessness.  It included shooting a cop (with a supersoaker) and trespassing on a runway at 100 mph on motorcycles that we were riding as though they were dirt bikes.

Bernard Ten Bears' Link of the Day: (Nice tomahawks-have to look for a retailer, but all reasonably priced.)

I'm Sorry, My Son - by the B&A Stowaway

                  My son, I’m sorry, for I’m robbing you of so much. You are only two months old, and already you have heartbreak to look forward to, for you are being robbed of your heritage. Your father is from a different time and a vastly different set of circumstances. I grew up in a small northern Maine town: you are growing up in south Michigan, in an apartment, in a city.

I have a good job now, my father didn’t.  We got to experience the happiness of unlimited Macaroni, cheese, and red hot dogs.  Red hot dogs are a staple of Maine life: you buy them by the pound, they come in a big bag. The red part is just the casing that houses a pale blend of mystery bits. The ends are always stuck together, you have to cut at the knots to separate them into individual hotdogs. Many weeks, it was Red hot dogs with macaroni and cheese for supper. On Tuesday, it was Macaroni and cheese, with a side of Red hot dogs. Wednesday, it was these same hot dogs chopped up and mixed into the mac and cheese; Thursday was the opposite, chopped hot dogs with mac and cheese poured over them.  Friday, well, that was straight mac and cheese, we had run out of hot dogs by that point.

You will never know the joy (and necessity) of living off the land. You will never know where the best strawberry fields are. You will never have to run pell-mell out of a raspberry patch because a black bear wanted to share.  You will never know when the blueberries are ripe, when the apples are ready to fall, how many potatoes you will have to pick to make it through the winter, and what maple syrup tastes like when it is finally boiled down to perfection. You see, I grew up relying on all of this, Junior. We would fill up two barrels of potatoes down on the flats, from all the stuff the harvesters missed. When a farmer left a broccoli field to seed, we would load up the family, get sharp knives, and harvest a winter’s worth.  We knew where the best berry fields where, and how much to charge per pint at our roadside maple syrup/berry/apple/worms/lemonade stand.  I waded through snow with my 8 year old snow boots, tapping trees so we could make enough money to go to the circus. I walked around at night with my flashlight, swooping down to grab nightcrawlers (giant worms), so I could cut them in half the next day and sell regular sized fishing worms.

You will never know what it is to walk through the woods with a homemade machete chopping down saplings.  Even if we were still back home, you wouldn’t, that was dangerous, my parents were nuts! My father gave me a chunk of sawblade from the lumber mill that someone had started to make a machete out of. I worked away at the rest with a grinder, until I had what looked like a three foot long butter knife. The handle was wrapped in a roll of duct tape. I wandered through the woods, hacking saplings off at waist height, because that is where you got the best swing from.

I hope someday you get the chance to drink from a well. We always had a pump out front, as did Mike Oscar’s grandfather. There is nothing like the feeling of winging the pump handle up and down, feeling nothing but air in the lines, than that satisfying slowing, when you feel the pipe grab the water. You pump harder then, and after a minute, the first surges come frothing out. The trick is, swing the handle a couple more times after it starts surging forth, then you can duck down for a long drink while the pump action is still working. If you can experience this someday, son, my teachings to you will not have been in vain.

You will have every toy you want. All the little trucks, action figures, and cars you can ride in, they will most likely be brand new. You will never find a 3 wheeled Tonka truck with a flattened cab and call it a treasure. You will never slide down a hill on a cookie sheet. I remember one of the best things a father could have for his kids was a scrap lumber pile. We made everything! Toy guns, tree houses, little carts, rafts (that never floated), and a plethora of other invented toys. Out back, we also had another treasure: 2 junk cars! I don’t imagine your mother letting me get away with that. But your grandfather had 2 vehicles that at some point, had given up the ghost, so we got to play in them. We had so many car chases, robbed so many banks, and jumped so many creeks, all while sitting on rusted rim that would never turn again. One year there was a hornet’s nest under the seat, we didn’t sit in that spot for very long. We had something else that I hope to buy you one day, a wagon. Ours wasn’t bought though. Ours was a wooden one that my dad did a great job putting together for us. It was painted Barn Red (which was oddly enough, the same color as our barn) and went everywhere with me and my brothers. We would take a quick trip down the hill, with the handle pulled up into the wagon as a poorly-thought out steering mechanism. We would wander down the road, collecting soda cans for nickels. We would tie it to our shepard/collie mix, who would promptly climb in with us, rather than pull us. I hope your wagon takes you as far and fast as ours did.

Animals are another gift I am afraid you will be without. Not house pets, but wild animals. Here in the city, they are a nuisance. Growing up, they were a treasure. I remember sitting quietly on the front porch as a moose wandered through the yard. I recall waiting for an hour, sitting perfectly still and barely breathing, before a chickadee thought I was a new and poorly designed bird feeder and would land on my hand to take seed out of my palm. We nursed any amount of animals back to health. Nursed most of them to health. Once in awhile, a baby bird or abandoned rabbit that had been doing poorly ‘escaped while we were sleeping’. I don’t know if you will ever see a speckled baby fawn timidly following its mother, or a fox kit peeking out of a culvert. And for this I’m sad.

I imagine you will have a life full of happiness, and you won’t even notice that these things are absent from your life.  I hope you don’t. I hope I still have the chance to teach you much, like how to tell the difference between a bait-stealer and a game fish, how to pinch a worm just right to pull him out of the ground in one piece, and how to aim a BB gun and knock a can off of a fence post. But most of all, someday, I hope to see you bend your elbow, get a twinkle in your eye when you feel the water surge, and watch you take a drink of fresh cold water off of the Hotel homestead water pump. Then my time with you will not have been wasted.

Hope you all enjoyed!

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel.....out.


  1. Had to highlight it to see the black print on the nearly black background, but that was simple enough and it was a darn fine read. Sad, but very fine.

  2. I agree with Gorges, a fine read.

  3. sad writeup, leave the city, money isn't everything. Go to a small town where everybody knows everybody.