EPISODE 93″ ALGOMA CENTRAL RAILWY “GOT THE DISAPPEARING RAILROAD BLUES” 1964 PART 1

EPISODE  93    ALGOMA CENTRAL…RAILWAY TO NOWHERE


“GOT THE DISAPPEARING RAILROAD BLUES” (Guthrie)

alan skeoch
August 2020




Early in the summer of 1964 I was  offered a job deep in a forgotten part of  Ontario.  
The only way in and out was on the ACR…the Algoma Central Railway.  A railway
that goes  nowhere really.  

The ACR runs from Sault St. Marie northward  to Hearst where it connects  with the
CPR transcontinental.   It is  a  railway of broken dreams.  The first builder only managed
to construct 58 miles of rail before going bankrupt.   Others completed the full 297 miles
but no one ever made  money.  Today the ACR is  a ghost line only going as far
as the mysterious Agawa canyon as a tourist adventure.  

There are people living along the line.  Not many.  Maybe fewer and  fewer.  The ACR
is  a rail line that links fishing camps.  Today, August 11, 2020,  I  am  not sure if the
ACR even reaches these lonely human outposts.  The current owner,  CNR, has
threatened to shut the whole line  down unless the federal government pitches in
and  bankrolls the line.

In 1964, my destination was  Mile 71 on the ACR.  A fishing camp from which we were
launching a mining exploration venture.  “Paradise Lodge”

The mist unusual characteristic of  the ACR was its public service to people like us…prospectors…
and others who hoped to catch a few fish.  There was no scheduled series of  stops.  

In 1964,  If we wanted  a  ride on the ACR, we stood in the middle of  the track and waved
a white flag or red  flag or old set of handlebar underwear or big bug net.  The huge train would  stop.

There  is nothing lonelier that the sound of  the ACR in a wilderness where the only answer is a  wolf howl.



Might I suggest you listen to Willie NeLson singing Arlo Guthrie’s  THE CITY OF  NEW OLREANS
…”the disappearing railroad  blues”

Arlo Guthrie – The City Of New Orleans Lyrics

from album: Hobo’s Lullaby (1972) 
www.lyricsfreak.com/static/images/txtstripes_large.gif); font-stretch: normal; font-size: 17px; line-height: 30px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; min-height: 598px; position: relative;”>Riding on the City Of New Orleans
Illinois Central, Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three Conductors; twenty-five sacks of mail
All along the southbound odyssey – the train pulls out of Kankakee
And rolls along past houses, farms, and fields
Passing trains that have no name, and freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobile

Good morning, America, how are you?
Say, don’t you know me? I’m your native son
I’m the train they call the City Of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Dealing card games with the old man in the Club Car
Penny a point – ain’t no one keeping score
As the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumbling ‘neath the floor
And the sons of Pullman Porters, and the sons of Engineers
Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel
And, mothers with their babes asleep rocking to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel

Good morning, America, how are you?
Say, don’t you know me? I’m your native son
I’m the train they call the City Of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Night time on the City Of New Orleans
Changing cars in Memphis Tennessee
Halfway home – we’ll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness, rolling down to the sea
But, all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream
And the steel rail still ain’t heard the news
The conductor sings his songs again – the passengers will please refrain
This train got the disappearing railroad blues

Good night, America, how are ya?
Said, don’t you know me? I’m your native son
I’m the train they call the City Of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done  

alan skeoch

PS   Our next stories  are framed by the ACR…that was 1964 when the line was privately
owned  for a  few years.  In 1965 it was sold and its survival was a question. A slow and sad decline ensued.

EPISODE 91 TOUCHING KIDS IS A GOOD WAY TO LOSE YOUR JOB.

EPISODE 91     TOUCHING  KIDS IS A GOOD WAY TO LOSE  YOUR JOB


alan skeoch’
August 10, 2020


Marjorie and  I at a  dance around 1961.  Before becoming a teacher.  We  are touching hands.  In 1951 we did not know
that such touching could  be dangerous.

Marjorie, Kevin, Pete (the dog) around 1970

CAUTION …THIS  STORY IS HARD TO BELIEVE…EVEN  BY ME.

My profs at U. of T. faculty of  education…John Ricker and Andy Lockhart
 both cautioned us about touching.  Yes, ‘Touching’.

“If  you want to lose your job just try hugging too many female students…one of
them might report you saying, “He touched  me!” 

” Whether true or not…whether
entirely non sexual  or not…That does not matter, you
will suffer some  terrible consequences.  Maybe lose your job even if the touching
was innocent or entirely fanciful…entirely in the mind of a  teen-age girl.  Be careful.”

“How can I be careful…half of the students I will teach will 
be teen-age girls.  And I would like the students to like me…would like
them to say “Skeoch is a good teacher…I like his classes…I like him.”

“Understood. The  best way to stay out of trouble  is to never ever be alone
with a female student.  No touching.  No patting on the back.  No hug of
consolation in event a family tragedy.  Be careful.”

The result was that I knew about ‘social distancing’ decades before this
current pandemic.   I kept my distance.   Most kids liked that distancing
anyway.  They called me ‘sir’ which has a distancing effect.  That is good.

Kids can  love a male teacher without smothering him in hugs and kisses.  To  most
kids their teachers are old people even if the age gap is barely four years.
There is safety in that age gap.  A gap reinforced by the use of ‘sir’ as a
term of respect as well as social distancing.

WHERE AM I GOING WITH THIS STORY?

Most of the  kids I taught liked me.  I  could tell by their
smiles and the occasional tap on the shoulder by the boys.
Not all were admirers.  I remember one girl told me to “Fuck
Off” in class.   Sort of a shock. I asked why after class..
“You were standing on my foot.”
True. I thought that was amusing.  “Stand up  when you answer.”
But she could  not stand up because I had committed the cardinal sin
of touching by standing on her  foot.  She could not stand up.  Stupid
but most kids thought it was funny.   She did not.
I apologized and we got along well after that.

In my  first year of teaching one young Grade 9 girl really scared me.
She  was a nice person.  Quiet. Scared of high school I thought.  So I
was  nice to her.  Big smlle. I made a point of greeting  her just to allay
her fears.   

Wrong thing to do!

We  lived on Westminster Avenue which was a  nice walk from
Parkdale Collegiate. Interesting stores on Roncesvales and Queen Street West.
The student met me  by accident and walked home with me several times.
Too many times to be  accidental.   Got me  really alarmed.  I should  not
be  seen  walking home with a female student.  No touching involved.  But imagination
of anyone who noticed might jump to dangerous conclusions.

So I began to fear walking home.    A grown  man afraid of a lonely
little Grade Nine girl.   Seems ridiculous to others but not to me.  I tried
slow walking and pauses at store display windows.  I tried fast walking like Olympic
walkers.  She was there whether fast or slow  This happened too often
to be accidental.  Let’s say she caught up to me five  or six times.   Enough
to raise alarm bells in my mind.

I shared my  concern with other male teachers. Just keeping
people informed was some  protection.

“How can I avoid the student without breaking her heart?”
(She was fragile…I feared hurting her.   What was really wrong
with a student liking her teacher?}

“What can I do?”

“Did you ever try walking on the south side of Queen Street.  Away
from the crowds on the sunny storefront side?”

“How would that help?”

“You could spot her and take evasive acton.”

That evening I took evasive action.  South side of Queen St.  Not so
many stores but enough for me to look for reflections.
Was she there?  Sure.  There she was paralleling me.  Knowing that
i would  have to cross to the North side once I reached  Roncesvales (the 
North South street that led to our home.   

I lingered.  Watched the reflection.  Watched her pause.  Then a  funny thing
happened.  Instead  of looking at the reflection I looked at the goods the 
store had for sale.  Women’s lingerie.., Brassieres etc. Bizarre.  Rather embarrassing.

Then the situation became even more bizarre.  i decided to make a run for
the Roncesvales street car…zipping briefly on the north side  of Queen then
running  and  jumping aboard the street car.

Where was she?   She was right behind  me.  Jumping aboard
at the same time.  

“Hello, sir.”

The weirdest thing then happened.   Her mother was on the street car
close to the front doors.  I knew her from parents’  night.  We talked…small
talk.  But that was the end of the accidental meetings.  I think her mom
intervened.   After that event I could walk home without worry of a female student escort.
Too incredible to believe?   I know it seems so.

Was the situation completely finished?   Nope.  A couple of weeks later one
evening when I was coaching football  at the Exhibition grounds the young
girl stopped  by  our house and asked Marjorie if  she wanted to 
buy a bunch  of pictures of me that she  had taken secretly.  Marjorie
did not buy the pictures of me walking  home.  We were amused but
a bit disturbed at the same time.  The tracking  soon ended.  The student
got older…forget about me…got on with her life.

Last I heard the young girl was married with three children of her own.

alan skeoch
August 2020

P.S.  I made it a  practice to never  be alone in my room with
a female student.  It was  a good decision.  Perhaps I might
be brave enough someday  to tell the story of a student teacher I was
assigned  later in my career.  She tried to talk with me alone.
I was  too wise for that.  I failed her.  She was a terrible teacher.
Another person she  caught alone with her faced a rape insinuation.
Her parting comment?  “I will kill you.”  Marjorie and I stayed
home that week end.

P.P.S.  Hard to believe?  You bet.  Even I find these stories
hard to believe.  Teachers are treated as guilty until proven
innocent.  The exact opposite of our criminal justice system.

 

EPISODE 91 PUT YOUR WARM AND TENDER BODY NEXT TO MINE (School Dance Oct. 1963)

EPISODE  91   PUT YOUR WARM AND TENDER  BODY NEXT TO MINE (school dance, Oc.t 1963


alan skeoch
August 9, 2020

Teen agers did dress  up  for dances but I do  not remember suits and ties on the boys

Note:  I have told this story many  times but I think it is worth repeating 
now…impact of social distancing  has  changed  so much.

Setting: Parkdale Collegiate Institute, School Dance Oct. 1963

I was  a new teacher at Parkdale Collegiate in 1963 which  meant I  was only a
few years older that the senior students. Taught for about 6 weeks.  And that, I believe, was the heart of
the problem.

“Mr. Skeoch,  you along with Alison  Petrie have been assigned as  chaperones
at the school dance.”
“Fine.  Any advice?”
“Just make sure no one is  smoking inside the school…”
“What if I catch a smoker.”
“Throw him out.”
(That sounded easier to say than to do.  I did not
know the students, especially the senior students.)

We had  an overflow population at the school in  1963.  The baby boomers boosted the student
body  from a low of 400 in the 1950’s to a bursting 1,400 by 1963.   So many students that the
tennis  court and any other space was now filled  with portable classrooms.  Mine was the
furthest from the school.  Charmingly isolated.  So far away  that most students  did not know
I was  a  teacher.   Fortunately a few senior students knew me as a  football  coach…new one.
For most kids, however, I was  an unknown as was  my co-chaperone Alison Petrie.  She was
very short.  Easily mistaken as  a  student.   

Marjorie came with me that October evening.  We liked to dance and thought this was  a good
chance to have fun and show off  a  few of our rock and roll dance steps.   The gymnasium
was packed  with kids.  Cheek to jowl as it were.  Or, better said, they “put their warm and 
tender bodies next” to each other.   The girls dressed to deliberately entice male admirers…
short skirts as I remember.   

Sex seems  to encourage combat among male animals…including male students.  They can
behave like bull moose in rutting season.   

We did not get a chance to dance much that evening.   We were really police officers.
Who  came to the dance?  Not just our students  but there were lots  of  strangers
from god knows  where.  Alison and I could not tell Parkdale students from anonymous 
marauders seeking to rob Parkdale females from Parkdale males.  

How the hell did these strangers get into the dane in the first place?  They had friends on
the inside…at the door.  And there was really no rule that strangers could not come to the dance.
We grew up in the 1950’s when weekly dances were common and  moose rutting performances
were rather rare.   At my high school, Humberside, the most rebellious activity at my first school
dance was  passing crocks full of  hard  cider around the dance floor.  Teachers thought it
was unfermented.   No fights.  The rotgut just made me sick.

Lots of  pop tunes n 1963 like Johny Cash and  ‘Ring of Fire’…Roy Orbison’s ‘Blue  Bayou’..or Bobby 
Vinton’s ‘Blue Velvet’.

Wow, did Johnny Cash ever fire up student dances…opening lyrics reveal much”

Love is a burning thing
And it makes a fiery ring
Bound by wild desire
I fell in to a ring of fire
I fell in to a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
The ring of fire



On that October night in 1963 the gymnasium was quite dark.   And  sometimes the slow dances
were so magnetic  that bodies seemed bound together…positively charged  magnets.  That was
a bit of a  concern so we turned  on a few lights.  Not a  popular thing to do.  “Who the hell do
those new teachers  think they are…police officers…morality officers””  We got some nasty looks.

“Alison, I  am going to patrol the halls for a few minutes. 
Will you and  Marjorie be OK in the gym?”
“Fine.”

Seemed to me I had better check that no one is smoking in the school.  If anyone was  smoking
it would be done in the halls.  And sure enough there were a bunch  of boys, maybe 5 to 6
of them with lit cigarettes in the main hall.   A challenge!

“Put out those cigarettes, now.”
“Who says?”
“I say.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“I teach here…placed in charge of this  dance.  No smoking.”
(mumbled  comments may have been ‘Fuck You’ or some less
challenging few words.)
“What did  you say?”
“Free country…we can say what we want…”Prick!”
“Are you Parkdale students?”
(Silence.  They were apparently not our students.  I did  not know for sure.
And I think  they still held their cigarettes.}
“OK,  That’s it, boys.  Get out of  here.  Now.  There’s the front door…leave.”
(I hoped my voice did  not crack as I got tough.  I  am not a fighter…always looked
to de-escalate confrontations because I had seen too many gang fights as a  kid
in the late 1940’s when my brother and I were small and lived in the middle of 
Diufferin Park.   One gang member got hit over the head with a lead pipe as I
remember.   Bottom line, I was not as  tough as the situation in 1963 escalated
into something that could  be physical.)
“Get out.  All of you.  Now.”
“Teacher.  Think you are a big shot.”
“OUT!”
“Bet you haven’t got the guts to come outside with us.”
“I’ll escort you out.  NOW!”
“Chicken shit teacher…”
“OUT!”
“Come out yourself.”

This image  captures the tough guys … complete with cigarette…but these are
not the boys.


Here I made a big mistake.  The challenge to come outside should have
been ignored.  But that meant a loss of face and by then Parkdale students
had gathered around.  So I  went outside with the boys who continued to
mutter a mixture of  challenges and  obscenities. “Fucking teacher.”
may have been one of the expressions although the F word was  uncommon
in the 1960’s.  More likely I  was called a ‘Son of a bitch”.  Either way  the challenge
had been made and  stupidly I herded the boys  outside.

Outside .  Jameson  Avenure was dark as  a dungeon. The street was lined with
magnifcent old Elm trees that filtered the street lights.  Our school had no exterior
lighting.

This  was not good.  The boys gradually moved  around me.  Closing off my escape
route back  to the school.  They were getting ready  to do something.  Maybe pound
the shit out of me.  Maybe they were bluffing as I was bluffing.   I was  scared but
kept my back straight.

“Big tough teacher, eh?”
“Get out of here.”
“Afraid  to  do anything but talk…no guts.”
 
The circle was closing.  I was in bad trouble.  If I touched one of these
boys then I had taken the first step.  They would be defending themselves.
No touching on my part, for sure.   But they seemed to intend to do more 
than touch  me.   I  was trapped.  In the dark.  Strangers.  Hot tempers.
Maybe girls watching….which  would be a  catalyst for violence.

Then a  wonderful thing happened.   Now, nearly 60 years  later I remember that]
moment as if was yesterday.  Out of the darkness behind  me came a voice.

“Are you having any trouble Mr. Skeoch?””

And a few Parkdale boys emerged, led by Ted  Spencer who was on our football
team as  were the other boys who emerged into the filtered  light.  They knew I
was over my head and might need them if push came to shove.

The tough guys who were really just older teen agers from another school.  Boys
with too much testosterone…They just drifted away…melted into the anonymity of
Jameson Avenue and Queen Street West.  Gone.   As if a mirage.

“Thanks, Ted, I was in trouble.”
“No problem, sir, we knew what was happening.”

Events back  in the gym had  also  taken a turn for the worst.  Well,
not that bad,  really.  But Alison  Petrie and  Marjorie had their own
troubles.

“How are things in the gym, Marjorie?”
“Not good.”
“What happened?”
“Two or three boys were talking to Alison…”So I hear
you come from the Maritimes, Miss Petrie?”
“Yes, Nova Scotia.”

“What’s  wrong with that, Marjorie?”
“Lots.”
“Like?”
“As the boy in front was saying pleasant things,  the boy  behind Alison
was slowly unzipping her dress…very slowly.”
“Who? Point them out.”
“Alison and  I have decided best to let things alone…nothing really
happened.  The boys thought it was very funny.”

Eventually the dance ended.  All the lights  came on  and the students 
dispersed.   That was my  first school dance in which I  had  been
put in charge.  The  principal and senior teachers were at fault I believe.
Two new teachers … kids themselves…should never have been put in
charge of  a  school dance.

Sad to say but today, in 2020, school dances  are rare.  There might be
a  sort school dance in an afternoon but a school dance at night seems
non existent.  Too bad, really.

Then again there is  no point to dancing any  more.  Why?  Social 
distancing.  Covid  19  has killed dancing. Can  you imagine dancing with a girl or a boy who are
sx  feet distanced  from each other.  No chance of them “putting their
ware and tender bodies” close together.

alan  skeoch
August 9, 2020

Post Script 
 For tje Gppd  Times  was  written in 1970…seven years  after the event
…but the meaning applies



“For The Good Times”
(originally by Kris Kristofferson)

Don’t look so sad, I know it’s over.
But life goes on, and this old world will keep on turning.
Let’s just be glad we had some time to spend together.
There’s no need to watch the bridges that we’re burning.

Lay your head upon my pillow.
Hold your warm and tender body close to mine.
Hear the whisper of the raindrops,
Blowin’ soft against the window,
And make believe you love me one more time,
For the good times.

I’ll get along; you’ll find another,
And I’ll be here if you should find you ever need me.
Don’t say a word about tomorrow or forever,
There’ll be time enough for sadness when you leave me.

Lay your head upon my pillow.
Hold your warm and tender body close to mine.
Hear the whisper of the raindrops,
Blowin’ soft against the window,
And make believe you love me one more time,
For the good times.








EPISODE 90 FAAREWELL TO IRELAND

Note: Error in Episode 90…Ignore  my wage and bread calculations..woefully wrong.

Note 2:  All of these Episodes…discursive for sure, jumping around…all of them have
been  written as stories  that might help the readers who are trapped  in isolation
as Covid 19 wreaks  havoc with the world we once knew.  


EPISODE  90   FAREWELL TO IRELAND…

alan  skeoch
August 2020

Stories about Bonmahon,  and the copper mines at Knockmahon and  Tankardstown
must come to an end I suppose.   Readers reach a point of saturation no matter
how enthusiastic the author remains.  If pushed I can write other Episodes 
about my 1960 Irish  adventure.  I might decide to do more myself.

Much will be left out and  that bothers me.  So let me leave you with a few parting
comments from the mine children of Bonmahon.   Interviewed while sorting and
crushing copper ore. (quotes thanks to Des Cowman)
Women and girl Workers in the copper ore sorting shed of  Bonmahon may
have  loved similar to these women.   Clothing was ragged.


These  children were American oyster shuckers pictured in the late 19th century.  The mining
children of Bunmahon would, I think, have looked similar.


Thirteen year old  Helen Howke:

 “We sit down at this work and lean on our elbows….I get
fourpence (4d) per day.  We come to work at 6 o’clock …at half past eight the bell
rings for breakfast…we have half  an hour.  At one o’clock the bell rings for dinner.
We have an hour and then work till six o’clock when the bell rings. In the winter
we work as long a  light will permit.  We begin  at daylight and leave off when it
gets  dark.   I had  potatoes  and a bit of fish for my dinner.  I go home for my meals
but many have their dinners on  the works.”  (She started work at 11 years of  age)

Margaret Gough, says she is “about 15 years old.

“I have never been to school.  I can neither read nor write.  I have three brothers and
five sisters.  They are all at home.  Two of them besides me work here.  We 
are very poor.  I  get paid  4d per day (guess that might be 10 cents) very regularly.
I have no shoes or any other clothes than  theseI have on.   I can sew a little. I give
my wages to my mother.” 

Two boys, 10 and  11 years old

“Some  of us get a slap  on the head sometimes or a cut with a stick  when not
attentive to our work”

Work  at Knockmahon was not as abusive as it sounds.  Mining copper was  less
dangerous than working in the coal mines of the English  midlands.  Less danger
of fire, silicosis, mining collapse, physical abuse.   The miners were well paid wen  
incomes are  measured against other incomes in  19th century Ireland where
poverty prevailed..  Likely most of the miners and
their families hoped and prayed that the copper vein would extend deeper
in the hinterland.   It did not.  

Better to have a job at Knockmahon … either above or below  ground…than
to have no job at all.

(Wages:  In 1850 — $100.00 was equal to $3,305.00 dollars today  in 2020
or in other words  $1 in 1850 = $33 today  in 2020.
Four pence in1850 = roughly 50 or 60 cents today in 2020, not a bad wage)

I  would like to congratulate Des Cowman for his research  skills that have
put flesh and blood on the bones of the copper cliffs  of Bonmahon.  His
work has also  done much to make the area of Knockmahon into a UNESCO
GEOPARK where tourists can  imagine life in a 19th century mining community.
Confused?   The villages  of Bonmahon and  Knockmahon are really one
large village separated  by the Mahon River.  


alan  skeoch
August 2020



VISITING IRELAND?   THE COPPER COAST HAS BECOME  A UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK

-IT is even possible  to go underground and see the 19th century mining  operation
at Knockmahon.


COPPER COAST ADVERTISED…OPEN FOR TOURISTS NOW

Copper Coastline

Copper Coastline IMAGE:GETTY IMAGES

The Copper Coast, in County Waterford, is named after the historic metal-mining industry and is now a tourist attraction thanks to the geological history of the area from Palaeozoic volcanism to the last ice age.

In 2001 the area was declared a European Geopark. In 2004 it was named a UNESCO Global Geopark. The Copper Coast stretches 10.5 miles from Kilfarrasy to Stradbally.

The region is known for its panoramic seascapes, cliffs, bays, and coves. In fact, the Copper Coast Road, the R675 stretching from Dungarvan to Tramore, is considered to be one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. It’s also known for it’s beautiful, clean beaches such as Clonea and Bunmahon and the village of Bunmahon, Boatstrand, Dunhill, Annestown and Fenor. Tramore, the popular seaside resort, is the best known town along the Copper Coast, but it also has a wealth of “undiscovered” secluded coves and beaches.

Read more: Dublin and Surrounding areas tours

Knockmahon

At Monksland Church, in Knockmahon, there is a visitor center dedicated to the geopark and its 460 million years of history. The geopark itself is an outdoor museum of geological records. The park explains how volcanoes, oceans, deserts and ice sheets all combined to create the rocks which provide the physical foundation of the natural and cultural landscapes of the area.

For those who want to explore the area’s mining center Bunmahon is the town to visit. This was the center of copper mining in the area during the 19th century. In fact, some of the Tankardstown Engine House is still standing near the village.

The Geological Garden, in Bunmahon, provides visitors with a glimpse into the geology of the Copper Coast. The Time Path in the garden will guide you through geological time with 28 slabs depicting the major steps in Earth history and evolution of life. There are also two ogham stones found nearby which are aligned to the summer solstice.

Copper Coast

The Geopark grew out of the Copper Coast Tourism Group which had been formed in 1997; our application to join the new European Geoparks Network was accepted in 2001. 
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Education
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EPISODE 89 BUNMAHON AND KNOCKMAHON…MYSTERIOUS PEOPLE THOSE MINERS

EPISODE 89   BUNMAHON AND KNOCKMAHON….MYSTERIOUS PEOPLE THOSE MINERS



Look closely.   See Barney  Dwan resting  comfortably on the  cliffs of Knockmahon in 1960.  Behind  him
is one of the adits  he showed me back then.  When I think of that 1960 adventure today in 2020  I am surprised
that none of my work crew  seemed to have any connection with the miners  of Knockmahon between 1840 and 1880.
But I  never asked really as we spent most of our time keeping cows  from eating our cables.


I This picture  of an Irish  cottage was taken in  Knockmahon in 1960.   Had  there been cameras invented  in 1850, many
such  pictures could  have been taken.  (alan skeoch)






alan skeoch
August 2020


I suppose  most people who think of Ireland’s past history immediately say “Potato Famine” or
“The Great Hunger”.  For good reason since 1 million Irish people starved to  death in the 1840’s
and another 1 million fled Ireland for North America and Canada where living conditions were
somewhat better.   The population of Ireland dropped from 8 million to 6 million in those years.

Today, August 7, 2020, it is easier for us to understand  those bad years.  We are in the midst
of the greatest Pandemic of our lives…Covid 19 has killed thousands of people  already and 
predictions are that eventually a million people will have  succumbed to that tiny virus.

HOW DID THE POTATO FAMINE AFFECT BUNMAHON AND KNOCKMAHON?

The Irish miners of County Waterford were a mysterious people to me…ghosts in
my mind when I worked
over the old  mine remnants  in 1960.  No one ever told me they were descendants
of  those 2,000 men, women  and  children who dug, sorted and shipped  oopper ore
from that thick but single vein of ore evident on the cliffs and eventually disappearing
into faults and tiny traces one mile inland from  the sea.   That vein reached 800 feet
below the ground…much of  it out under the Atlantic Ocean.

Who were these people?   Many of them remain a  mystery but thanks to the research
of  Desman Cowman, a high school teacher in the Christian Brothers school  in Tramore…
Thanks to his impeccable research  some of the curtain of mystery has  been  pulled
aside.

Here is what we know about those people…gleaned from fragments.

  There  was a leader who tried to shepherd the mine families  through the starvation 
years.  He was a miner from Cornwall who came to Knockmahon along  with many
other  Cornwall miners.  His name was Pentheric. (sp?)  As early as1841 the spectre  of starvation
hung  over Bunmahon and  mine manager Pentheric  imported a large cargo  of potatoes
and  oatmeal which was sold cheaply to the mine families.

But it was not enough.  By  the dark year of  1846 deaths were common.. 

 “There is a great increase
of fever in the  district.  From 150 to 200 are unemployed  in the village of  Bunmahon.  A
considerable increase of  fever is apprehended from the scarcity and  high price of food.” (Feb. 1846)

“…a mining population of about 3,000 (guesiimate?) … some of these  are in a state of
great destitution.  They will no longer be supp[orted by the people of  Kill and Newtown.
…Only 116 pounds (money)  left.   Lorenzo Power and  Richard Purdy  have left for Dublin to get some
emergency help.”  (May, 1846)

“133 tons of Indian meal have been distributed since 2nd of  June among 3,520 people.”
“A large quantity was distributed gratuitously and  in  return for work. (widening and straightening
public roads)…Any that had employment were sold the meal for prices ranging from 1/2 d to 
6 d per stone (halfpence to sixpence).  Half  a  stone being allowed per person per week.
The objects of relief in this district are chiefly  cotters, farm labourers  and miners.” (August 24, 1846)
(*Note: Indian meal, i.e. corn meal, was difficult for Irish people to process and eat so  it did
not always  stave off starvation)

“No more money to buy meal.:  (Sept. 30,1846)

“The hinterland  of  Bonmahon is one of the great distressed  parts of this country….There is apathy
to all farming orations and the ground is neglected.”   )Feb. 22, 1847)

“Out of  population of 5,000 in Kill-Knockmahon area on one day 3,500 applied  for relief.  There 
were 1,400  on relief when food ran out.”   (May  to September 1847)

“The rest is silence.  The dimensions of  the disaster emerge in the census of  1851.  One third of
the population of  Bunmahon  hadn’t survived … 628 people out of the 1,771 population recorded in 1841 
had  simply vanished and their fate goes unrecorded.  The shanty-town survived.   (But)  76 of the 90
habitations there were gone…about a quarter of the labouring class in the hinterland of the mines
seem to have vanished.  The human agonies behind these figures can well be imagined but no
record survives detail them.”   (Des Cowman, quotes gleaned from reports of Mining Company of
Ireland)

So that dark decade  from 1841 to 1850 has  left only  spotty records for us to consider.  Miners
and mine families  just did  not keep  records.  Most, it seems,  could  not read or write.  And any
that could do so were too tired and too hungry to put their grief in print.





The irish labourers homes were small…in this case one room.  Some
miners cottages in Bunmahon had two  families living one such home.

Adult males and rural class
structure circa 1841
 (2)
Category Number Per cent
Rich Farmers 50,000 2.9
(average holding 80 acres)
‘Snug’ Farmers 100,000 5.9
(average holding 50 acres)
Family Farmers 250,000 14.7
(average holding 20 acres and usually not
employing labour)
Cottiers 300,000 17.7
(average holding five acres)
Labourers 1,000,000 58.8
(average holding one acre, though often
without any land)

Living standards of the rural poor
There were localised famines in 1800, 1817, 1822, 1831, 1835-37 and 1842. Prior to 1838 there was no state welfare system. In 1841, two fifths of Irish homes were one-roomed mud walled cabins. In the words of a contemporary observer: “The hovels which the poor people were building as I passed, solely by their own efforts, were of the most abject description; their walls were formed, in several instances, by the backs of fences; the floors sunk in ditches; the height scarcely enough for a man to stand upright; poles not thicker than a broomstick for couples; a few pieces of grass sods the only covering; and these extending only partially over the thing called a roof; the elderly people miserably clothed; the children all but naked.”3



Failure of the potato crop, Illustration from the Pictorial Times 22 August 1846
The  one roomed  Bothans were makeshift structures often using  a
stone farm  fence as the back wall.  The Bonmahon ‘ bothars’  just disappeared
during the famine.  As did their residents

Evictions  of Irish rural poor were coupled with the demolition of
their ‘cottages’.  Some of  these roofless  ruins are still evident here
and there in Ireland.  At least one was present in 1960 in Bonmahon.


Today,  August 7, 2020 the best marker left by these people is the old winding tower
and steam engine house ruins that haunt the land above the cliffs of Knockmahon.   There is
however, a modern playground in the village of  Knockmahon where once the sorting
shed existed.   This was the place where to copper ore was dragged  by horse and
cart and  later by a rail line to the village.   Girls  and young women, perhaps 200 of
them , laboured separating the water rock from the valuable ore.  There
was  a large water wheel that turned a crushing machine grinding the large lumps
of ore into concentrate that  was  sacked and sent by sailing ship to Swansea, England, for
melting into copper ingots. Big girls and  women were paid seven pence per day.
Little girls got four pence per day.

There are a few glimpses of these girls that show  the poverty that  prevailed.
Several young girls were  interviewed and  detailed  their work day…from dawn
to dusk earning 4d (fourpence) per day.  What does  fourpence mean?
In 1850 the British pound was worth about $1.25 American.  The cost of a 
loaf of bread  in the United States was  9 cents.   This means that the full
day of labour by  these young girls of 8 to 12 years old was barely enough 
to buy one loaf of bread.

How many loaves  of bread can be bought by a person earning minimum wage today?
Not hard to figure.  eight hours times $15 per hour = $120.   A  loaf of bread
costs  between  $2 and $3 which  means  a minimum wage worker can buy
40 to 60 loaves  of bread from a single day of labour.  (I must be wrong here…
need to do more)




Irish miners in United States by the 1880’s

Colorado Irish Immigrants

TO BE CONTINUED

alan  skeoch
August  2020

Post Script:   Some of the Bunmahon miners, perhaps many of them , left Ireland for North America.  Their lives
may have improved somewhat but their lives were still unpleasant…see below


Assistant Professor Jim Walsh’s dissertation sheds some light on these Irish migrant miners…perhaps some of
them from Bonmahon.

“Ten years ago, Colorado author Jim Walsh’s dissertation research on 1800s immigration to the Rocky Mountain region led him to the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville and a previously unwritten chapter of history. There he came upon the “Catholic Free” section beyond the back of the cemetery, which extends for acres into pine forest. Records indicate that over a thousand Irish immigrants—averaging only 26 years in age—are buried there in unmarked graves.  During the 1870s and 1880s, impoverished Irish miners flooded into the Rocky Mountains, often never to be heard from again. Rather than finding fortune in the gold and silver boom era, many met with untimely deaths. Walsh, a Clinical Assistant Professor at CU Denver, who now researches and lectures on labor and immigration issues, has felt compelled to find some recognition for those unacknowledged souls.

Colorado Irish Immigrants
Colorado Irish Immigrants

“These Irish immigrants, many from the copper mining region of the Beara Penninsula in west County Cork, were buried in what was called the Catholic Free section of Evergreen Cemetery between 1878-1890,” Walsh said.  “The sunken graves include hundreds of infants and children. These are the forgotten Irish:  destitute, transient, and facing dangerous working conditions.  A massive miners’ strike in 1880 led by Irish-born Michael Mooney, failed to improve pay or working conditions for the community.  On October 1, we will resurrect their stories and make sure that this space is recognized as sacred Irish space.””

Fwd: EPISODE 87 MY LAST KICK AT THE CAN…LAST MINING EXPLORATON JOB SUMMER 1965



Begin forwarded message:


From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: EPISODE 87 MY LAST KICK AT THE CAN…LAST MINING EXPLORATON JOB SUMMER 1965
Date: August 5, 2020 at 9:01:06 AM EDT
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@gmail.com>, John Wardle <john.t.wardle@gmail.com>



EPISODE 87   MY LAST KICK AT THE CAN…MY LAST MINING EXPLORATON JOB  SUMMER 1965

      (Marjorie surprised us all…dare  not say more)

alan skeoch’
August 2020

THE STRANGEST THING HAPPENED WITH THIS  STORY.  I WANTED  A PICTURE  OF
THE  COMINCO OPEN  PIT MINE SO PUNCHED  UP MERRITT  B.C. ON THE INTERNET AND THERE
IN BOLD PRINT WAS MY ORIGINAL STORY…SAME EVENTS AS BELOW  BUT DIFFERENT.  SO
YOU WILL GET TWO VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY.  HOW ACCURATE WAS MY  MEMORY.
YOU BE THE JUDGE…VERSION #2 COMING NEXT EPISODE.




COMINCO MINE … picture taken  several  years later than  our visit in 1965
…Now Called the Highland  Creek  Mine.

Open Pit mines use massive  Euclid trucks to clear away the overburden to get at the ore.


This is the Cominco  ‘holding pond” for mine tailings.   It is now a new lake complete
with trout for fishermen and fisherwomen.  Not all  mines are disastrous to the
environment although that is hard to believe when the open pits  are in operation.


VERSON #1:  WRITTEN FROM MEMORY ON AUGUST 4, 2020

Yes, I am back.  This terrible  summer of 2020 has not been pleasant.  There has been
a big gap in my plants deliver an episode each day the goddamn Covid 19
virus has forced so many of  you into  involuntary isolation.  I have  wanted
to put some  of these stories in print for ages…actually for 60 years. While locked
up like  a lunatic  this  spring  and summer I have been  typing and some of
you have taken  the time to read and  comment on the stories.   Thanks.  Your
comments are like a pint of   Guinness to an Irish alcoholic. 

Two comments before I begin Episode 87

1) The  pain in my gall bladder was excruciating.  My performance  in the
emergency ward  of Mississauga’s Trillium hospital a few days ago was
embarrassing.  Having an anxiety attack while nearly nude really threw  
me  for a loop.  (see last  Episode for the particulars).  I am fine now. 
No gall bladder.   the holes in my chest now match  the holes
in my head.   The death of Gabriela, one  our daughters in law was
a double shock contributing to the panic attack no doubt.

2)  This Episode 87 does not follow the chronological order  of the Irish
stories.    I will get back to them shortly.  I must tell the  of the story of the Summer of
1965 while I remember what happened.  Cannot find  my  journal.  Just memory.  But
the events are true.

EPISODE 87   MY LAST KICK AT THE CAN…SUMMER  1965

We had  been married for two years.   A good marriage. Loved each
other with no second thoughts.  at least none on my part.  Maybe Marorie
had second thoughts after this adventure. Doubt it. Best Friends and lovers as they say. Everything was  new
to the both of  us.  We started life as husband and wife  with nothing.  No 
pile of money.   No great rich  parents to load  us with the  luxuries  of  life.
We were self supporting.  Marjorie was a teacher at Emery Junior High School
and  I had job teaching history and english at Parkdale Collegiate Institute.
  We looked  forward to a  quiet summer
in our huge apartment at 120.5 Westiminster Avenue in west end Toronto.

I blame  that fish and chip dinner we ate  at a greasy spoon store on Roncesvales
Avenue.  Ulcerated  mouth … Trench  Mouth.   It began slowly with a
sore throat and progressed to a ghastly mouth that became one huge
ulcer.  Eating food was like sticking my  throat in a  bonfire.  And it
was ugly to look at…white rather than red.  We reported the suspected
origin to the Board of  Health where the nurse explained  Trench  Mouth
comes from  eating off plates with cracks. “More often coffee cups with
cracks.”  The inspector  wondered how sure  i was the infection came
from the fish and chip store.   I was not sure.  And regretted
sending  inspectors to the small hole in he wall restaurant.   “Happens
all the  time, people make  guesses and restaurant owners get hurt.”

I wished the inspector would leave.   Wished  I could  lie down.
Wished the pain would go away. wished  I could eat or drink without
incessant fire  in  my throat. 

 “The summer is terrible, Marjorie…On all those mining jobs we never got
sick in the bush.   Cooked our food some of which was disgusting.  Remember
that ‘campers special stew’.  Dried.  All it needed was boiling water.”
“Boiled  over a fire  late at night as we set up camp.  Dark.  The stew  tasted
great.”
“Then in the morning light we noticed  the pot was  full of tiny dead worms.
The dried  stew had been pre-digested  by the worms.  We at the worms.
Never got sick.”
“Worse than that was the sowbelly maggots…and weiners exuding a
white preservative that stuck to our hands like glue.  Never got sick
in 9 summers  of mining  exploration.” (Not quire true)
“Then I got this nice  safe teaching job and here I am flat on my back with Trench Mouth.”
“Might be a good  idea  to stop talking about it Alan.”
“Easy  for you to say.”
“Not easy…this summer seems dreadfull.”

The  Trench Mouth ordeal was nearly over in the first week  of August.
The phone rang.

“Alan, this is Norm  Paterson.  How is the teachig career going?”
“Very well,” (What would Dr. Paterson be calling me  for?….certainly not
for small talk.  Certainly not to hear me  whine about Trench  Mouth.
“How would  you like  a short job?”  
“Great.”  (Amazing how  my blubbering about Trench  Mouth ended so abruptly)
“We need  a guy to do a seismic job in British  Columbia.”
“The Portable Seismic…FS 2?”
“yes, same one you used  in New Brunswick and  again on the Niagara River job…you know it.”
“How  long?”
“A week…maybe two weeks.  You will be back  in time for school.”
(Norm…i mean Doctor Paterson…knew I was a mining exploration addict.)
“When?”
“Leave tomorrow…Air  Canada  to Vancouver then local flight to Kamloops where
a car has been rented.   Then south to Merritt.”
“Why the urgency?”
“Open pit mine with a big problem.  One wall of the open pit seems
unstable.  Could  collapse into the mine.  Wipe them out financially.”
“So  how  will  our seismic machine,” (Funny how I began using 
the term ‘our’)  How will we help”
“The geologists and  mine manager are hoping that somewhere along the 
line of unstable rubble  there will be a big hook of bed rock  capable
of stopping the collapse.  Millions of dollars involved.   If we  can help…
the cost will be negligible.”
(I do not  remember ever asking Norm…I mean Dr. Paterson…how much
I would be  paid.  The chance to have an adventure trumped money anyhow.)

Trench mouth be damned…I was back  in the  saddle again as the song says.)

     Some of you readers may have  already  made  a snap judgment about me.
“Damn fool does not know he is now a married man…never consulted Marjorie..ready
to bugger of on an  adolescent male holiday without thinking about Marjorie.”

  Not true.  The previous  summer we took a job in the bush  north of Sault Ste Marie
and I invited  Marjorie  to join us.  She arrived on the ACR
(Algoma Central Railway)  at our flag  stop…i.e. we simply
waved to the engineer and he  stopped the train.  Marjorie got off
carrying two things.  Both of  which  were quite useless.  She brought
her sewing  machine … electric…useless.  And our cat, Presque Neige’….wolves
howled every night.      Marjorie was not averse to adventure.  While waiting for
me  to fly out to Salt Ste. Marie  she accepted an invite  to practice takeoffs and
landings with a character just learning to fly. She only got out of that
adventure  by pretending to throw up all over the windscreen  as they dipped  and  dove

“Well,Alan, what did Dr. Paterson want?”
“We have a job in B..C.  Flying out tomorrow.”
“Does  Dr. Paerson know I will be coming as  well.”
“Not exactly…no…he does not know.”
“Who pays for me?”
“I will pay…our holiday time.”
“But you will be working…no holiday.”
“Better than a holiday.”

So we  flew  to Vancouver the next day.  I was a bit worried.  How  would the geologists
and  mine manager react when I arrived with my wife.  Not such a good idea.
Miners facing the  loss of a whole multi-million dollar mine would  not be
amused. Their thoughts could be…

 “He brought his goddamned  wife.”
(and  then phone Norm…I mean Dr. Paterson…in Toronto.)
“We waned a seismic  man  out here…not an asshole with his wife.”
(That could spell  trouble…but i had a plan. The plan turned out to 
be bad.)
“Marjorie,  could you stay in Vancouver overnight and then come
to my motel room in Merrit tomorrow.  Take the bus.  That would give me time to
prepare the big shots  for your arrival..”
“Suppose I could….” (she was  not ecstatic about the idea but
accepted the plan with reservations.)

So I few  to Kamloops.  Rented a big flashy red  convertible and
drove to Merrrit with the radio belting out Gordon Lightfoot and
Peter, Paul and Mary.  Life was good.  Forgot about the Trench 
Mouth.



Earth mover…like riding a dinosaur…cowboy drivers sat in that little cage in front.  Bounced their way to the dump site.

I drive right down  into the open pit…an immense hole in the land.Parked at the mine
managers  shack,   Some cowboy about my age came thundering  out of the pit
driving an earth moving machine…bouncing along with a load  of waste to dump in
the tailing dam.  He saw me…saw  the red convertible and  decided to scare the
shit out of  me for no good reason.   He wanted see  how close his earth mover
could get to the passenger door of the convertible.    He misjudged and  ripped
a  slab of steel siding as if he was driving an immense can opener   So much
for the  red convertible. We got a less glorious replacement. next day/.

That little incident was a forewarning of things to come.

I thought Marjorie was safely tucked away in a modest
hotel in East Vancouver.  East Vancouver?  Never been  there.
Not such  a nice  place so I am told often by  Marjorie over
the  past 60 years.  

“Alan, the hotel was terrifying and the
streets  outside were worse.  Scared me.
So I left it behind.   Caught an overnight bus at 10 p.m.
from  Vancouver to Merrit.  Found  your motel…
signed  in and went to bed.   You were out on
the job”

This was true.  I was out on the job with the big shots.  Doing some practice
blasts  on the edge of the immense open pit
Nice  guys.  Soon convinced I  knew what I was
doing.

“Let;s go  for a beer near your motel.?”
“Good idea.”

The men  were startled to find a woman sleeping in my motel room.
I was just as startled  to find Marjorie there. but immediately
introduced  her to the geologists  and  the mine manager.

“This is my wife Marjorie.”

They winked!   They grinned.   They did not believe me…they were
convinced I had hired a hooker from Vancouver to ease the
tensions  of the seismic  job.  No matter what i said they grinned.

“Marjorie, no matter what I say, those guys are
convinced you are  a Vancouver prostitute.””

“Nothing much we can do about that…I will just
have  to play the role…could be amusing.:’

:”How in hell;s half acre did you ever get to Merrit on
your own?”
“It was not  easy but I sure was not going to spend
the night in that hotel.”
(Secretly I marvelled at Marjorie’s ability to take the bull
by  the horns and  adjust  circumstances.  Some  of her 
friends were shocked at our earthy  adventures.

alan skeoch
August 2020

Post Script.  “Nice  guy sat beside me on the bus…all night.”   Wow!

The  job worked  out OK.  First full day the  powder man fell off the edge  of
the open  pit carrying our box of  Forciete and blasting caps.  We hauled  him
back to the mine crest.  His  fall was  only about thirty or forty feet on  a  stable
slope.   Forcite does not explode easily.

Later, when the big shots came to see a demonstration  I set everything up…seismic
machine as  base point and  blasting stations with 50 or 100 for intervals.  My job
was simple.   Push  the ‘fire’ button  and read  how many milliseconds it took for
the sound wave to reach  the seismograph.  What could go wrong.?

Lots.  Dr. Paterson knew that so before takeoff from Toronto he gave me a small
package  of  computer boards.  “Alan, if  the machine fails, just slip out a computer
board  or two and replace them with these new  boards.  I don’t expect that to happen
but you never know.”

Of course  the  first firing failed.   The forcite exploded  but the milliseconds
of  the sound wave did not register.  And  all the mine officials were standing
beside me.  Big time pressure.  “Keep cool, Alan…cool.”  My thoughts.

“Just a computer problem fellows.  Will fix it in a  minute.”
(opened  up the seismic machine…slipped out one computer board and
slid in another from the stash provided by Norm.

“OK,fire again.   All clear.”  I pushed  the button . The Forcite exploded and
the millisecond  lights  lit up.  Perfect.   Everyone was  impressed including  me.

I do  not remember whether we found  a bedrock  hook to stop the mine
collapse.  Not sure  we  did.  What I do remember was  looking down
…a  long way down…to the bottom of the open pit.  And watching the
detonations  below.  Huge  explosions…massive walls of overburden just
folded into piles of rubble for the Euclids to receive from Excavators.

AMMONIUM NITRATE detonated  in an  open pit mine.

“Ammonium Nitrate by the ton…poured down blasting holes and then 
sweetened with diesel oil.  Detonated.  Makes  piles of rubble.  End of the world
it seems at times.”

We finished the job.  Had a couple of  meals with the mine manager and others.
Marjorie  was included…bubbly as ever.  She played her new role to perfection.
They continued to wink.  Actually they liked her.  By the end  of  the job they may
have even considered she was really my wife.

“How will we get home, Alan?”
“Job is over.  On all my jobs  I tried to take the slow
way  home.  To enjoy the sights of  a strange place.”
“Cut the guff, how are we going  home?”
“By the train…the transcontinental…Dining car and
big bubble  viewing car…and bunk beds.”
“Sounds expensive.”
“I cut the cost buy just ordering one bed…a lower….we will both be in
the same bed….might be  a little tight.”

alan skeoch
August 2020

END  VERSION #1   EPISODE 87




EPISODE 88 VERSION #2…(FORMERLY episode 77) LAST JOB IN THEWILDERNESS…COMINCO, MERRITT, BRITISH COLUMBIA 1965

EPISODE 88  (VERSON #2) FORMERLY EPISODE  77    LAST JOB  IN WILDERNESS….COMINCO OPEN PIT MINE

alan skeoch
august 2020

READ AND COMPARE…#87 WAS WRITTEN FROM  MEMORY, #88 (FORMERLY #77) WAS WRITTEN WITH HELP OF JOURNAL ENTRIES N1965

SUMMER 1965: LAST JOB IN THE WILDERNESS


1965:  My Last Summer in the Wilderness:   Merritt Open Pit Mine, Merritt, BC

alan skeoch
Feb. 2019


As the Summer of 1964 ended,  I thought my career as a Field  Man in the Miining Industry
also  ended.  Was I waving a fond good-bye?  Not a chance.  Along came the Summer of 1965.
Marjorie now had a role which  was misinterpreted as you will notice.


“Hello, Alan, is that you?”
“Yep.”
“Norm Paterson here…need a man for a seismic job in BC…two weeks, maybe three.”
“Wait until I check with Marjorie.”
“Short job, Alan.”
“All clear, what’s up”
“Big molybdenum mine near Merritt B.C…worried about overburden slippage…need seismic
info urgently.”
“Using the  portable FS2 unit.”
“Yes, with some modifications…”
“Modificatons?”
“Nothing big time…you can handle it I’M sure.   Can you take the job?”
“When?”
“Fly out to Vancouver tomorrow then short hop to BC interior.”
“Sounds great, count me int.”

That call came from out of the blue about August 10, 1965.  This  was our summer vacation as public 
school teachers.  Hardly a  vacation for us since somehow I got Trench  Mouth in early July.  Trench Mouth?
Not many people have even heard  of trench mouth.  Lucky for that.  It is a super painful mouth infection 
Mouth…a series of ulcers in mouth and throat…super painful.  Cause?  Gums got infected with Trench ]
Mouth bacteria from some source.  Rare disease  dates back to soldiers in the  trenches of World  War I.
Knocked me out for month of July so the Seismic call from Dr. Paterson was a welcome return to normal life.

But I had a few questions…reservations.  What is molybdenum?   What are these ‘modifications’ to the 
FS 2 portable seismic unit?   Where is Merritt?  How big is the open pit mine?  And finally a questions
best not put to Dr. Paterson”  “Can Marjorie come along on the job?”  Of course, the final question was
the really big question.  And  it was already answered.

“Marjorie, pack a  couple of bags for two weeks…light, one bag each.”
“Where are we going?”
“Wish  I knew…place called  Merritt.”
“Another bush job?”
“Nope, sounds like a  job at a mine site.”
“Where will we live?”
“Not sure…I will fly in first and then you follow a couple of days  later.”
“Why?”
“Because the mine manager expects an expert…this  job is serious business…if the open pit is on verge of collapse…
they do not expect a husband and wife team on some kind of junket.”
“Where am I to stay then?”
“Stay in Vancouver for a day or two in some cheap hotel and then take a bus to Merritt…by then the job should be well
underway.”
“How do I get there?”
“By bus…should be  a nice ride.”
“I’ll book you into a an East  Vancouver hotel,…”

MOLEBDENUM

“What is molydenom?”
“It’s a mineral often found assoiated with copper.”
Never heard  of it.”
“Not many people  have…important mineral though…alloyed with steel makes steel harder.”
“Who needs harder steel?”
“Military.  One inch thick steel plating of steel and molybdenum is as good as 3 inch think ,metal.   Make
tanks ligher…makes ships lighter…”




THE NATURE OF THE JOB:  COMINCO OPEN PIT MINE PROBLEM

One wall on The Cominco Open Pit Mine was unstable and seemed about to collapse which would tumble  hundreds of tons
of soil and rock into the open pit mine.  Like a  mountain landslide.   Geologists and mining engineers became aware of the danger when slight rock falls began
to happen.   Could the whole massive open  pit mine be  compromised?   Maybe.  Maybe not.  There was  a chance that deep
underground the rock was  quite stable.  Maybe there might even be some kind of intrusion underground that would inhibit any
further  movement.   

It was worth finding out.  If stable then the profits would  be secure.  If not then drastic action would have to be taken.  Action that
might even bring about the closure of this partciular open pit operation.

“You can do it, Alan,” said Dr. Paterson which was comforting.  I was not so sure as I had graduated from U. of T in history and  philosophy.
Philosophy gives a person confidence.  History made me aware of  my ignorance.  One cancelled out the other.

No matter, we were committed and picked up the portable ‘modified’ seismograph.  Marjorie and I flew to Vancouver the next day.  She was  booked into a modest hotel in Vancouver while
I caught a plane to Kamloops and rented a snazzy red convertible for the trip down to Merritt.  Then Rented a room in the local motel which was very close to the mine itself.
On arrival I  met a company geologist and the mine manager
and we sleuthed out the site.  Explosives and blasting caps were purchased and  we got down to business.  Plan was to start the job the following morning.
That sounds  very business like.  Very efficient.  

Unfortunately events did not go that smoothly.  Let’s start with the car rental.  Nice red American  made convertible.  Luxury car was only car available so I motored joyfully
south through the desert landscape of sagebrush and Ponderosa pines.   Pulled the car up near the mine admin building…sort of a wooden temporary structure.  Lots
of huge earth movers were busy stripping off the overburden then loading up with the blasted fragments of copper bearing ore…very low grade…with molybdenum  and tiny traces  of
silver and gold.  Needed huge load of ore to get small amounts  of copper or molybdenum.  Gold  and silver even less so.

Earth movers have a blade about midway down the body. The blade is a mouth…once dropped it scoops up loose soil and rock…then the mouth is lifted and
the pile of soil and rock is hauled to a dump site.   These machines  are often driven by devil may care cowboy kinds of people. Shake the shit out of  drivers.  Certainly true in this case.  As  soon
as I parked the car a cowboy tried to see how close he could come to the car.  He got very close…too close.  Sheared off the passenger side and back bumper.  Had to 
rent another car, less luxurious.  Funny thing was  that neither the mining people nor the rental agency got their underwear in a twist.

Later I heard  that heavy alcohol consumption in the area led  to many car  accidents.  




Imagine this rental car with the side sheared away.

An earth mover, called a tractor scraper,  identical to this one took a  swipe at my rental car…ripped the passenger side and tore off the back bumper.
Driven by a young man about my age or younger…maybe even only18 or so.  I have no idea why he did it.  Never met him
and he did not stop just kept hauling his load to the dumpsite.


The Cominco (later Highland Creek) Open Pit copper and molybdenum mine in 1965




Current picture, circa 2018, of the Highland  Creek open pit mine near Merritt, BC.   When I worked there back in 1965, the pit
was not nearly tis deep.   The place where we did the survey may have been somewhere near the central road way
but up on the former surface.  Then again it could have been a nearby open pit that was subsequently abandoned.



SO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE FS2 PORTABLE SEISMOGRAPH?

I learned the business from the bottom up.  My first job in New Brunswick was the ‘hammer man’ job.  Dr. Paterson gave me
a heavy sledge hammer and  small steel plate.   

“Hit that plate as  hard  as you  can wherever and  whenever you are told to do  so.”
“Must I know how to run a seismograph?”
“You do not need  to know a damn thing…just follow orders.”
“Bottom of the learning ladder kind  of job, right Dr. Paterson?”
“Right…if you are lucky, you come back as a field man for the company…capable
of running a seismic survey.  If you foul up, well, you can figure what that means…”
“Who is  my boss?”
“Dr. Abul Mousuf, a professional geophysicist…nice guy.”

Description:  Sledge hammer pounded  on a steel  plate sent sound waves to 
the portable seismograph at clearly defined spatial intervals.  Some distance
from the Seismograph it was necessary use explosives.   Sound waves  travel at
different speeds in different material…i..e. air, overburden soil, bed rock.





So My first job we used an MD-1 portable seismograph.  All I  had to do was  hammer a steel plate with heavy steel headed sledge hammer.  Abul Mousuf  was  my boss on that job.
Just the two of us were sent to New Brunswick  to confirm the future lakebed of the St. John River Valley was  going to hold the huge amount
of water from the Macktaquack (sp?) dam.  




 Abul was the first moslem I ever met.  Very patient
and generous  guy.  He ran the portable seismograph while I provided the sound wave vibrations which were picked up by the machine in milliseconds..tiny
fractions of a  second.  I pounded the steel plate at measured intervals…usually around 50 foot intervals.   The more  distant I got from Abul the
harder I had to hammer that steel plate.  When hammering was no longer readable, we started to use force… explosives…Explosives!

“Alan, cut the Forcite sticks into quarters and  halves.”
“How?”
“Slowly with a knife…the sticks are quite stable…
“Stable?”
“plastic C4…needs big shock to detonate…That’s where  the caps come in.”
“Caps?”
“These little metal tubes with wires…electric  firing caps.”
“How are they charged?”
“Slide the metal tube slowly into the Forcite…quite safe.”
“And the wires?”
“Attach to this cable that goes back to the firing switch…
“Any danger of error?”
“Always  a  danger if more than two people get involved…safe is we work together.
You set  the charge…bury it so some of the force will go down… then get back  out of the way…Signal me…wave your arm…yell, ‘All clear’
and I’ll detonate the charge.  usually only need quarter sticks.

We worked out a routine…once the charge was buried and wires connected I signalled Abul, then moved out
of the way, and he pushed  the firing button.  Wham!  A small geyser of dirt snd  debris flew into the air.  And beneath the ground a  sound wave raced
to the seismograph.  Sound  waves move faster in  hard surfaces so it is possible to ‘read’ what is  beneath the ground…and do  a profile of the depth to bedrock.
That is  a very simple explanation.  Forgive any errors.  Remember I was just the hammer and explosives  guy.  The kid on the
job.

We hired  a man to help with the explosives.  I have forgotten his  name.  If someone
saw him walking through town today with this handful of Forcite sticks made ready
to detonate they would call in a Swat team or run for their life.  In the early 1960’s not
many people  were concerned unless we were crossing their land.

This is how the St. John River Valley above Fredericton appeared to me in that summer of 1961.  Like  a picture postcard.
Stunning in its beauty.  We were agents of change.  


The whole valley from Fredericton to Grand Falls was destined to become a huge lake held in place by the Mactsquak Dam.






King’s Landing.   Many of the historic buildings in the Valley were  moved to King;s Landing which remains a mecca  for tourists.




That job was done a few years earlier around 1961.   Actually the job was depressing because the St. John River Valley was absolutely 
beautiful.   To imagine it being flooded made me sad.  But progress is  progress.   Loyalist  farms had been expropriated. Their antique 
treasures were so vast that a huge historic village called King’s Landing was being constructed while we were assessing the future lake bottom.   Some of these farms were 
still in operation others had  been demolished.  One farm I remember particularly.  We had rented cabins at a doomed resort near Pokiok Falls, also doomed.  The weather 
was turning cool, early September, and each of us had a small wood burning stove beside our beds.  In my mindI can  still smell  that wood fire.
The barns on that farm were filled  with ancient farm machines like  a wooden tread mill for a horse to deliver power to a florally decorated  flat to the floor threshing machine.
At the time I  wished I could rescue some of these implements.  I hoped they would end  up at King’s Landing for future tourists.




Pokiok Falls was also doomed.  The water spilled down a long split in the bedrock which made the waterfalls  almost inaccessible.   Now it is all covered in water and
the village of Pokiok Falls is a memory at best but more likely totally forgotten.

I got to know Abul really well.  We liked each other.  Part way through the job his wife joined us.  She was  a French Canadian girl from Bathurst, 
New Brunswick.  Really nice person   At one point Abul said, “Why don’t you two go down to the Fredericton Fair tonight while I do
the calculations.  We did that.  Even rode a Ferris Wheel as I remember.”  On another night we visited the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.
  Why tell you this?  Because Islamophobia has become such
a big negative factor in Canada today.   Images of Moslem restrictions on women are rampant.  That was certainly not the case with
Abul.  He trusted me with his  wife.  She was about my age. Back in Toronto, in late fall, Abul and his wife joined our Presbyterian Young Peoples Group and explained some
of his Islamic  beliefs.  This was not done with the intention of conversion.
He  was  about as laid back  a man as  possible.

Why tell you all this.?  Because Abul taught me how to use the portable seismograph.  And my image of Moslems was permanently affected by
his gentle behaviour, his humour, his trusting nature, and his love of life.  The next summer I asked Dr. Paterson…

“How is  Abul?”
“He died.”
“Died,  no he  was young.”
“He caught pneumonia on a job in Northenr Quebec las winter….died.”
“What a nice man he was.”
“Yes,  we all  miss  him.  I spoke to him just before he died and he
said…’Don’t feel  badly, it my time to go.  I am at ease.’

There were several end results of working with Abul .   First, I met a man I have admired all my life.  Second, I came to understand Islam in a manner that was  positive rather than fear laden.  And third, I
learned how to operate a portable seismograph which increased my value to Hunting Technical and Exploration Services.   Oh, yes, there was a fourth result…I got a couple of glycerine headaches from
handling the Forcite sticks.  They beaded droplets of glycerine.


So, when Norm…sorry, I meant to say Dr. Paterson…phoned me in late July 1965, I was  overjoyed to have the job.

The greeting by the professional staff at the mine site was a little disconcerting though.  They had  set up a demonstration test just to be sure the company, my company, knew what we we’re doing.
At least that’s the way I interpreted them gathering around the FS2 on the first working day.   They assigned a hammer man to work with me, a man who was a little familiar with frociete explosives.
Really just a kid a few years younger than me.  We walked along the edge of the huge open pit mine.  Walked carefully.  But not carefully enough for the hammer/explosives man.  He slipped over
the edge carrying the box fo Forcite sticks.  Fell down about ten feet or so, regained his footing and popped up again.  Forcite does not explode when dropped.  A most stable explosive…can be needed
and wrapped  around a bank vault as they show in the movies.  So there was no real danger although the boy who fell had misgivings. 

Let me set the stags for the next critical incident:

We are standing on the edge of the open pit Molybdenum mine.  A Great circular road  weaves its way down to the pay dirt at the bottom.  Huge Euclid mine trucks are going and coming
while equally large excavators are at work far below.   The officials from the mine are interested in seeing the Seismograh at work.  They are professional people…a geologist and the mine manager
are among the 5 or 6 people present.  

I set up the console and mark off the intervals for a) the hammered plate and then, once hammering cannot be done b) the intervals for the electrically fired quarter snd half stick of Forcite.  The hammer man
has been instructed how to slowly side the electric firing caps into the Frociete then use the lead wires to make the explosive secure.

I am nervous.   What if nothing happens?  What did Dr. Paterson mean when he said certain adjustments had been made to the FS2.  Let me describe what happened next in dialogue form.

“OK, we’re all set up,  FS is on.”
“Hammer the steel plate…NOW.”
“That’s odd, no reading…no milliseconds indicted…Do it again!”
(Nothing happened…I had my heart in my mouth…was there something I did not know…was it my fault?
Keep calm, Alan…be confident.”
“Sorry, must be a defective board…may have shaken something loose en route.”
 Dr. Paterson had given me two or three spare “boards” filled with complicated soldered resistors and what not.)
“Just do a replacement…slide this board out and put a new one in…happens all the time.”
“OK, now take a good song with the hammer:
“Bingo…working fine…measures time vibration gets to the seismograph in milliseconds…
te more distant the hammer or the explosives get from the seismograph the closer we get to finding 
what is underground.  What you want is a stable rock base…or a rock knob to prevent any more slippage.
That will take s lot of readings…(no need for an audience is what I really meant)”
“My credibility had been established…by pure luck…well, more than luck, let’s say guts…Dad always
called me a ‘gutsy bugger’

GUESS WHO ARRIVED THAT FIRST DAY ON THE JOB?

Once the board was replaced all went well.   Firing box for  Explosives worked perfectly. All I had to do was push the button and  then
write down the milliseconds it took  for the sound wave to reach the seismograph.  Simply add  up the little twinkling lights.  At least that
is what I remember.  Things became routine.

My next shock was when I returned to the motel.
Marjorie was unpacking her suitcase in our room.  




“Marjorie, I thought you were going to wait a couple of days?”
“Not in that Vancouver hotel.  I  was sacred so I caught the night 
bus to Merritt…arrived this morning.”
“Scared?”
“Strange men…noise…drunks…did not want to stay around.”
“Glad to see you…perfectly safe here…”

A little later, the mine geologist showed up to make me feel welcome.  Me?
He was surprised to find an  attractive young woman in my room with me.
Wore a kind of lopsided grin when I introduced Marjorie to him.

The next day I got the scuttlebutt from our hammer man that the execs thought I had
brought a hooker in from Vancouver.  They were certain of that.  No matter how many
times  I introduced  Marjorie as my wife, they figured I was leading them on.

“Marjorie, these guys think you are a hooker…can’t dissuade them…”
“So, let’s leave it at that then Alan.”

Pictures: Marjorie…I know these were taken a few years after the BC venture…but they seem to fit.

As the days wore on, I think they came to realize Marjorie was my wife but we were 
never sure that fact was believed.  There is  an old story about mining that I picked
up when working on the Elliot Lake uranium job.  Our liaison man on that job said
“The best way to tell if a mine is going to be operational is the arrival of the hookers.”
Maybe Marjorie was a good luck omen.

WHAT WAS THE RESULT OF THE SURVEY?

I was only the field man.  The interpretation of my results was done by professional geophysicists like Dr. Paterson back in Toronto. 
The execs from Cominco would have liked me to tell them if the unstable north wall of the open pit was on the verge of collapse
or whether it would  stabilize due to a  tilt in the bedrock.  I never did know the results.  That was true of all the jobs except for
the Southern Irish job where Dr. Stam and geologist John Hogan were on site for the duration of the job.  

When we finished our seismic readings and the results were sent back to Toronto, the job was over.  

So here we were in Central British Columbia with s  few days before school started back in Toronto.   What should  we do?
Fly home right away?   I never liked doing that on any job.   Seemed  an absolute waste because most of the places we surveyed
were distant from Toronto. Some were fascinating places like Anchorage, Alaska…Keno City, Yukon Territory…Bunmahon, County 
Waterford, Slouther Ireland.   It would be stupid to rush home.  And it would be costly since two airfares were involved only one of
which was covered by the company.










“Marjorie, why don’t we catch the CPR Canadian…the transcontinental railway?”
“Can we do that?”
“On our own time…company job is over.”
“Expensive?”
“We can cover most of it with my return fare…maybe even cheaper.”
“How?”
“Let’s just reserve one sleeper bed…a lower?”
“Is there room for two?”
“Who cares?”

CPR The Canadian sleeping                car section

So we did.  We came back to Toronto on board the ‘Canadian’…meals in the dining car, vistas enjoyed from
the dome car and both of us folded into the lower bunk sleeper.   A little tight but No problem.  Job over.

AND  SO  ENDED MY CREER AS A FIELD EXPLORATION MAN IN THE MINING INDUSTRY.
EACH DAY SEEMED TO HAVE A NEW ADVENTURE.  SO GLAD YOU HAVE TAKEN
THE TIME TO READ THESE NOTES.

ALAN SKEOCH
FEB. 8, 2019

P.S. There will be some short notes coming…such  as the GOOD FOOD note below


THE GOOD LIFE : GOURMET COOK 

    (And a game for you to test your vision)



Envy?  I can understand why many readers are envious when the descriptions of life in the
wilderness are sent.   I have noted that some recipients only look at the pictures
and ignore the rich prose that I take a long time to string together.  So here is a very
short descriptive essay that is really a game.  See if you can find each of the items
listed below.  The picture underscores just how wonderful life in the bush can be.

photo  Taken: Yukon job 1962 




See if you can find the following from list under the photo




1) Spruce pole bed
2) Gold Pan
3) Bird’s Custard can
4) Bird’s Cutard with stale bread and Klim milk powder
5) wash basen/ dining bowl  (double duty)
6) Candles  (indication this camp has been used for week)
7) Instant coffee cans
8) long underwear
9) fancy boots
10) Mattress
11) Alarm Clock, wind  up kind
12) tarpaulin floor
13) discarded  matches
14) Two spoons (evidence of communal dining)
15) Clothing storage area
16) Mystery: A boot lace? string? heavy duty tooth floss?

    17) One reader noticed the person in the photo is left handed…as I am.

          But I did not own such a fancy pair of long underwear.  We shared
          the meal, however, both left handed cooks.
   18) Another reader commented  on his clean feet and wondered
         whether he had  washed his feet in the wash basin before making
         the skim milk, custard  and stale bread gourmet dinner.  It is  just
        possible he did do that which would add some fine particles to the meal.

alan skeoch
Feb. 8,2019
(picture was taken on the Yukon job in 1961 or 1962)



EPISODE 87 MY LAST KICK AT THE CAN…LAST MINING EXPLORATON JOB SUMMER 1965


EPISODE 87   MY LAST KICK AT THE CAN…MY LAST MINING EXPLORATON JOB  SUMMER 1965

      (Marjorie surprised us all…dare  not say more)

alan skeoch’
August 2020

THE STRANGEST THING HAPPENED WITH THIS  STORY.  I WANTED  A PICTURE  OF
THE  COMINCO OPEN  PIT MINE SO PUNCHED  UP MERRITT  B.C. ON THE INTERNET AND THERE
IN BOLD PRINT WAS MY ORIGINAL STORY…SAME EVENTS AS BELOW  BUT DIFFERENT.  SO
YOU WILL GET TWO VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY.  HOW ACCURATE WAS MY  MEMORY.
YOU BE THE JUDGE…VERSION #2 COMING NEXT EPISODE.




COMINCO MINE … picture taken  several  years later than  our visit in 1965
…Now Called the Highland  Creek  Mine.

Open Pit mines use massive  Euclid trucks to clear away the overburden to get at the ore.


This is the Cominco  ‘holding pond” for mine tailings.   It is now a new lake complete
with trout for fishermen and fisherwomen.  Not all  mines are disastrous to the
environment although that is hard to believe when the open pits  are in operation.


VERSON #1:  WRITTEN FROM MEMORY ON AUGUST 4, 2020

Yes, I am back.  This terrible  summer of 2020 has not been pleasant.  There has been
a big gap in my plants deliver an episode each day the goddamn Covid 19
virus has forced so many of  you into  involuntary isolation.  I have  wanted
to put some  of these stories in print for ages…actually for 60 years. While locked
up like  a lunatic  this  spring  and summer I have been  typing and some of
you have taken  the time to read and  comment on the stories.   Thanks.  Your
comments are like a pint of   Guinness to an Irish alcoholic. 

Two comments before I begin Episode 87

1) The  pain in my gall bladder was excruciating.  My performance  in the
emergency ward  of Mississauga’s Trillium hospital a few days ago was
embarrassing.  Having an anxiety attack while nearly nude really threw  
me  for a loop.  (see last  Episode for the particulars).  I am fine now. 
No gall bladder.   the holes in my chest now match  the holes
in my head.   The death of Gabriela, one  our daughters in law was
a double shock contributing to the panic attack no doubt.

2)  This Episode 87 does not follow the chronological order  of the Irish
stories.    I will get back to them shortly.  I must tell the  of the story of the Summer of
1965 while I remember what happened.  Cannot find  my  journal.  Just memory.  But
the events are true.

EPISODE 87   MY LAST KICK AT THE CAN…SUMMER  1965

We had  been married for two years.   A good marriage. Loved each
other with no second thoughts.  at least none on my part.  Maybe Marorie
had second thoughts after this adventure. Doubt it. Best Friends and lovers as they say. Everything was  new
to the both of  us.  We started life as husband and wife  with nothing.  No 
pile of money.   No great rich  parents to load  us with the  luxuries  of  life.
We were self supporting.  Marjorie was a teacher at Emery Junior High School
and  I had job teaching history and english at Parkdale Collegiate Institute.
  We looked  forward to a  quiet summer
in our huge apartment at 120.5 Westiminster Avenue in west end Toronto.

I blame  that fish and chip dinner we ate  at a greasy spoon store on Roncesvales
Avenue.  Ulcerated  mouth … Trench  Mouth.   It began slowly with a
sore throat and progressed to a ghastly mouth that became one huge
ulcer.  Eating food was like sticking my  throat in a  bonfire.  And it
was ugly to look at…white rather than red.  We reported the suspected
origin to the Board of  Health where the nurse explained  Trench  Mouth
comes from  eating off plates with cracks. “More often coffee cups with
cracks.”  The inspector  wondered how sure  i was the infection came
from the fish and chip store.   I was not sure.  And regretted
sending  inspectors to the small hole in he wall restaurant.   “Happens
all the  time, people make  guesses and restaurant owners get hurt.”

I wished the inspector would leave.   Wished  I could  lie down.
Wished the pain would go away. wished  I could eat or drink without
incessant fire  in  my throat. 

 “The summer is terrible, Marjorie…On all those mining jobs we never got
sick in the bush.   Cooked our food some of which was disgusting.  Remember
that ‘campers special stew’.  Dried.  All it needed was boiling water.”
“Boiled  over a fire  late at night as we set up camp.  Dark.  The stew  tasted
great.”
“Then in the morning light we noticed  the pot was  full of tiny dead worms.
The dried  stew had been pre-digested  by the worms.  We at the worms.
Never got sick.”
“Worse than that was the sowbelly maggots…and weiners exuding a
white preservative that stuck to our hands like glue.  Never got sick
in 9 summers  of mining  exploration.” (Not quire true)
“Then I got this nice  safe teaching job and here I am flat on my back with Trench Mouth.”
“Might be a good  idea  to stop talking about it Alan.”
“Easy  for you to say.”
“Not easy…this summer seems dreadfull.”

The  Trench Mouth ordeal was nearly over in the first week  of August.
The phone rang.

“Alan, this is Norm  Paterson.  How is the teachig career going?”
“Very well,” (What would Dr. Paterson be calling me  for?….certainly not
for small talk.  Certainly not to hear me  whine about Trench  Mouth.
“How would  you like  a short job?”  
“Great.”  (Amazing how  my blubbering about Trench  Mouth ended so abruptly)
“We need  a guy to do a seismic job in British  Columbia.”
“The Portable Seismic…FS 2?”
“yes, same one you used  in New Brunswick and  again on the Niagara River job…you know it.”
“How  long?”
“A week…maybe two weeks.  You will be back  in time for school.”
(Norm…i mean Doctor Paterson…knew I was a mining exploration addict.)
“When?”
“Leave tomorrow…Air  Canada  to Vancouver then local flight to Kamloops where
a car has been rented.   Then south to Merritt.”
“Why the urgency?”
“Open pit mine with a big problem.  One wall of the open pit seems
unstable.  Could  collapse into the mine.  Wipe them out financially.”
“So  how  will  our seismic machine,” (Funny how I began using 
the term ‘our’)  How will we help”
“The geologists and  mine manager are hoping that somewhere along the 
line of unstable rubble  there will be a big hook of bed rock  capable
of stopping the collapse.  Millions of dollars involved.   If we  can help…
the cost will be negligible.”
(I do not  remember ever asking Norm…I mean Dr. Paterson…how much
I would be  paid.  The chance to have an adventure trumped money anyhow.)

Trench mouth be damned…I was back  in the  saddle again as the song says.)

     Some of you readers may have  already  made  a snap judgment about me.
“Damn fool does not know he is now a married man…never consulted Marjorie..ready
to bugger of on an  adolescent male holiday without thinking about Marjorie.”

  Not true.  The previous  summer we took a job in the bush  north of Sault Ste Marie
and I invited  Marjorie  to join us.  She arrived on the ACR
(Algoma Central Railway)  at our flag  stop…i.e. we simply
waved to the engineer and he  stopped the train.  Marjorie got off
carrying two things.  Both of  which  were quite useless.  She brought
her sewing  machine … electric…useless.  And our cat, Presque Neige’….wolves
howled every night.      Marjorie was not averse to adventure.  While waiting for
me  to fly out to Salt Ste. Marie  she accepted an invite  to practice takeoffs and
landings with a character just learning to fly. She only got out of that
adventure  by pretending to throw up all over the windscreen  as they dipped  and  dove

“Well,Alan, what did Dr. Paterson want?”
“We have a job in B..C.  Flying out tomorrow.”
“Does  Dr. Paerson know I will be coming as  well.”
“Not exactly…no…he does not know.”
“Who pays for me?”
“I will pay…our holiday time.”
“But you will be working…no holiday.”
“Better than a holiday.”

So we  flew  to Vancouver the next day.  I was a bit worried.  How  would the geologists
and  mine manager react when I arrived with my wife.  Not such a good idea.
Miners facing the  loss of a whole multi-million dollar mine would  not be
amused. Their thoughts could be…

 “He brought his goddamned  wife.”
(and  then phone Norm…I mean Dr. Paterson…in Toronto.)
“We waned a seismic  man  out here…not an asshole with his wife.”
(That could spell  trouble…but i had a plan. The plan turned out to 
be bad.)
“Marjorie,  could you stay in Vancouver overnight and then come
to my motel room in Merrit tomorrow.  Take the bus.  That would give me time to
prepare the big shots  for your arrival..”
“Suppose I could….” (she was  not ecstatic about the idea but
accepted the plan with reservations.)

So I few  to Kamloops.  Rented a big flashy red  convertible and
drove to Merrrit with the radio belting out Gordon Lightfoot and
Peter, Paul and Mary.  Life was good.  Forgot about the Trench 
Mouth.



Earth mover…like riding a dinosaur…cowboy drivers sat in that little cage in front.  Bounced their way to the dump site.

I drive right down  into the open pit…an immense hole in the land.Parked at the mine
managers  shack,   Some cowboy about my age came thundering  out of the pit
driving an earth moving machine…bouncing along with a load  of waste to dump in
the tailing dam.  He saw me…saw  the red convertible and  decided to scare the
shit out of  me for no good reason.   He wanted see  how close his earth mover
could get to the passenger door of the convertible.    He misjudged and  ripped
a  slab of steel siding as if he was driving an immense can opener   So much
for the  red convertible. We got a less glorious replacement. next day/.

That little incident was a forewarning of things to come.

I thought Marjorie was safely tucked away in a modest
hotel in East Vancouver.  East Vancouver?  Never been  there.
Not such  a nice  place so I am told often by  Marjorie over
the  past 60 years.  

“Alan, the hotel was terrifying and the
streets  outside were worse.  Scared me.
So I left it behind.   Caught an overnight bus at 10 p.m.
from  Vancouver to Merrit.  Found  your motel…
signed  in and went to bed.   You were out on
the job”

This was true.  I was out on the job with the big shots.  Doing some practice
blasts  on the edge of the immense open pit
Nice  guys.  Soon convinced I  knew what I was
doing.

“Let;s go  for a beer near your motel.?”
“Good idea.”

The men  were startled to find a woman sleeping in my motel room.
I was just as startled  to find Marjorie there. but immediately
introduced  her to the geologists  and  the mine manager.

“This is my wife Marjorie.”

They winked!   They grinned.   They did not believe me…they were
convinced I had hired a hooker from Vancouver to ease the
tensions  of the seismic  job.  No matter what i said they grinned.

“Marjorie, no matter what I say, those guys are
convinced you are  a Vancouver prostitute.””

“Nothing much we can do about that…I will just
have  to play the role…could be amusing.:’

:”How in hell;s half acre did you ever get to Merrit on
your own?”
“It was not  easy but I sure was not going to spend
the night in that hotel.”
(Secretly I marvelled at Marjorie’s ability to take the bull
by  the horns and  adjust  circumstances.  Some  of her 
friends were shocked at our earthy  adventures.

alan skeoch
August 2020

Post Script.  “Nice  guy sat beside me on the bus…all night.”   Wow!

The  job worked  out OK.  First full day the  powder man fell off the edge  of
the open  pit carrying our box of  Forciete and blasting caps.  We hauled  him
back to the mine crest.  His  fall was  only about thirty or forty feet on  a  stable
slope.   Forcite does not explode easily.

Later, when the big shots came to see a demonstration  I set everything up…seismic
machine as  base point and  blasting stations with 50 or 100 for intervals.  My job
was simple.   Push  the ‘fire’ button  and read  how many milliseconds it took for
the sound wave to reach  the seismograph.  What could go wrong.?

Lots.  Dr. Paterson knew that so before takeoff from Toronto he gave me a small
package  of  computer boards.  “Alan, if  the machine fails, just slip out a computer
board  or two and replace them with these new  boards.  I don’t expect that to happen
but you never know.”

Of course  the  first firing failed.   The forcite exploded  but the milliseconds
of  the sound wave did not register.  And  all the mine officials were standing
beside me.  Big time pressure.  “Keep cool, Alan…cool.”  My thoughts.

“Just a computer problem fellows.  Will fix it in a  minute.”
(opened  up the seismic machine…slipped out one computer board and
slid in another from the stash provided by Norm.

“OK,fire again.   All clear.”  I pushed  the button . The Forcite exploded and
the millisecond  lights  lit up.  Perfect.   Everyone was  impressed including  me.

I do  not remember whether we found  a bedrock  hook to stop the mine
collapse.  Not sure  we  did.  What I do remember was  looking down
…a  long way down…to the bottom of the open pit.  And watching the
detonations  below.  Huge  explosions…massive walls of overburden just
folded into piles of rubble for the Euclids to receive from Excavators.

AMMONIUM NITRATE detonated  in an  open pit mine.

“Ammonium Nitrate by the ton…poured down blasting holes and then 
sweetened with diesel oil.  Detonated.  Makes  piles of rubble.  End of the world
it seems at times.”

We finished the job.  Had a couple of  meals with the mine manager and others.
Marjorie  was included…bubbly as ever.  She played her new role to perfection.
They continued to wink.  Actually they liked her.  By the end  of  the job they may
have even considered she was really my wife.

“How will we get home, Alan?”
“Job is over.  On all my jobs  I tried to take the slow
way  home.  To enjoy the sights of  a strange place.”
“Cut the guff, how are we going  home?”
“By the train…the transcontinental…Dining car and
big bubble  viewing car…and bunk beds.”
“Sounds expensive.”
“I cut the cost buy just ordering one bed…a lower….we will both be in
the same bed….might be  a little tight.”

alan skeoch
August 2020

END  VERSION #1   EPISODE 87



episode 86 EMBARASING BEHAVIOUR….ANXIETY ATTACK







EPISODE 86     EMBARASSING BEHAVIOUR….ANXIETY ATTACK

alan skeoch’
July 2020

If you can stand to read this then do so.  If you are queasy at the knees as I can be…then DO NOT READ THIS EPISODE 86




TODAY is Sunday july 26, 2020.  I was released  from hospital an hour ago…thankfully.

“What the hell are you doing in the hospital, Alan?”
“Give  me a  few  minutes and I will tell you.  the
events are not flattering…make me looks deranged.:

START.

Marjorie and I returned to the city  after a delightful meal at the farm
practicing social isolation and distancing with masks. All the goddamn
things we had been doing for the past four months.

“Marjorie  what do you have for an upset stomach”?
“Something  you ate?”
“Don’t know but hurts bad…like a ballon in my gut.”
“Book says ginger is good…I’ll make  ginger tea…”

Cut to the qjuick here.  After the  usual panacea, water…We tried everything including apple vinegar
and honey.   Next comes mint leaves, the BRAT DIET (banana, rice, applesauce,  toast), then Iturned

to the internet…lime, lemon juice, baking soda ,
  even considered  Yarrow leaves from the garden.

My gut hurt really bad…bloated.

I remembered  uncle Norman said  the vets used a big knife for bloated cattle because the choice

was a terrible  choice.  And I remembered him hauling out a dead bloated steer with the help of
the man from the dead wagon.


“Christ, Marjorie  this hurts but the internet says the worst thing
to do is lie down.  So you go to bed and I will pace the floor until
this stuff works its way out my ass or my mouth.”

1.00 a.m.  “Marjorie, wake  up…we  have to go the hospital fast.  I think
it’s the gallstones again.  Pain bad…really bad.  Get up.  Wake  up.:”

  We moved with speed of  summer lightning…Mississauga Trillium Hospital…guards out front.

1.30 a.m.  “Just park anywhere …let me out.  Ignore the guys in
uniform.”
“Hold on sir.”
“Let him go…he’s having an attack.”
“Then you can go no farther. lady.”
(I slipped by…in my pajamas with a spare shirt and my I phone.
Emergency room was empty…no one there.  At other times there were dozens
but no one tonight ( July 25, 1.30 a.m.)  Then a nurse appeared…got all the  data needed
as I fumbled through my wallet.  “I  am in pain…bad”  “how bad on scale 1 to 10?”
It was10…might be 8 now…”
“Here slip on this  wrist band”
“Follow the arrows back there…someone will help ou.”
Alone, I walked,  then heard tapping at a window and there
was Marjorie…thumbs  up…I returned the gesture even
though my pajama bottoms wanted to fall down.  The trail
led me to an assessment centre…
“Room 5,sir”
(Why 5…most distant room….hardly a room …tiny but large enough for terror to unfold)
“Let me take some blood, sir”
“What is your first name.”
“Caister”  (may have  got it wrong)
“There, got the blood, now get ready to give  me  a sample.  I will
be back in a minute.”
(A minute was just to damn long.  I snapped.  Did not expect

to do so but anxiety attacks are almost spontaneous.  They explode.

And this is when things turned UGLY. real Ugly for
everyone concerned.  

“ I started to scream…I can’t breathe!  I CAN’T BREATHE!  help me SOMEONE…FOR
CHRIST’S SAKE, I CAN’T BREATHE!   I SCREAMED AND SCREAMED.

People came running.  From where I do not know.

“HELP ME…HELP ME…NO BREATHE…GOING TO FAINT.”

They tried.  Many people…maybe 6,  maybe 10 all crowded  into
this overgrown telephone booth.  All yelling  as well.  “Give him air.
Calm down, sir.  Sit Down   Stand up.  Stope yelling.  breathe through
you nose not you mouth.”

“CAN NO ONE HELP ME.  I CANNOT BREATHE.”

But you are  breathing.   “NOT ENOUGH AIR.  LET ME OUT OF HERE.
SOMEONE  HELP ME.:’

“QUICK, RUN AND GET THE ECG…FAST…”

“SIT DOWN, SIR.”
“I CAN’T SIT DOWN…CANNOT BREATHE.”
(I Tore off the hospital gown.)
“GOT TO STAND  UP…DYING.”
“SWEATING LIKE A STUCK PIG…WATER POURING OFF.”
(The GUY WITH MY GOWN IS TRYING TO WAVE  IT TO CalM ME DOWN.
BIG GUY, .  HE CLEARS A TINY SPACE
FOR ME TO STAND UP…FANNING ME…I AM NEAR NUDE …SCREAMING LIKE
A MAD MAN.

(…6 to 10 of us…then the
ECG arrive on a trolley…wedged into the room…tottering.)

“I CAN’T BREATHE…HELP ME…SOMEONE HELP ME.”


“Here slap  these patches on his body…anywhere…then we’ll
hook him to the ECG.   Patches and then a forest of wires attached
while I am jumping around  screaming…”I CAN’T BREATHE.  I NEED
AIR..OXYGEN.  AN AIR TANK FOR GOD’S SAKE”

Then the ECG  starts to chatter while showing zig zags of my heart on a screen.  Danger?
 zigs and zags all looks the same.  Cards piling up like an accordion.  No strait line thankfully.

   I glanced  and remembered  hospital shows on TV.  Straight line on an ECG spells death.


“I CAN’T BREATHE.  NEED  AIR.”
“SIT DOWN SIR,”
“CAN’T SIT DOWN”
Some hands pushing me  down,  others helping me up.  Too many hands.
Everybody yelling and the ECG chattering.  Spewing out the last few moments
of  my life.
“I CAN’T BREATHE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE…HELP  ME…I NEED AIR..NEED AIR.”
Then someone wraps a plastic  air pipe around  my neck and  is  fumbling with
the pipe…air tank now in room as well.

Trying to reach my nose…jumping around

“CAN’T BREATHE.   DRY MOUTH…DRY MOUTH…DRY MOUTH”
A hand jams a  capsule in my mouth and something sticks to the inside front
tooth.  “DRY MOUTH…HELP ME…SOMEONE…CAN’T BREATHE.

“BUT YOU ARE BREATHING, SIR.”
“NOT ENOUGH.  ONLY HALF BREATHES…NEED AIR…NEED AIR.”

(ECG machine has paper as long as the room by now.  Someone takes
a look. I must be dying…but machine keeps chattering…no deadline…I am
alive but  ‘I CAN’T BREATHE”

“CALM DOWN, SIR…TRY YOUR NOSE NOT YOUR MOUTH…YOU WILL
GET OVER IT…CLASSIC ANXIETY  ATTACK…HE WILL GET OVER IT.”

THE guy with my gown now  has a little more room.  He starts  to wipe me
down  with the gown…meanwhile I am still yelling  “I CAN’T BREATHE…DRY MOUTH…
WILL SOMEONE HELP ME.”  

Little sticky patches allover my body…multi coloured wires..  “SIR , TRY TO RELAX.”

  Eventually I 

wound down  … slowly …still yelling but without the short staccato yells …I am getting
more oxygen…someone holding the tank behind me…I am breathing…not well…not even

 but I am breathing.


It was pandemonium.   And I was the in the centre.   But I really could not
breathe.   Even though I was gulping air like a goldfish in a tank. Someone switched
off the ECG.   I sat down.  Then  Caistor helped me onto a gurney. Wrapped me
in a new gown…must have been a new gown…my original was soaked.




  INTERJECTION:  TODAY I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE SIX TO TEN  PEOPLE
THAT CROWDED IN THE ROOM TRYING TO HELP.  GOOD PEOPLE.  PART OF
THE HERO FORCE WE MAY NEED AGAIN.  I WONDER HOW THEY WILL REMEMBER
ME?  UNSTABLE?  MAYBE ANXIETY ATTACKS ARE COMMON.  PLEASE TAKE NOTE THAT ALL

THESE PEOPLE WERE TAKING  RISKS TRYING TO HELP ME.  I AM PARTICULARLY

IN DEBT TO THE TALL BLACK  MAN  WHO I CALL ‘CAISTER’ …I GOT HIS NAME GARBLED
IN ALL THE EXCITEMENT.  HE MADE SURE I COULD STAND AND  HE TRIED TO COOL
ME BY WAVING MY GOWN AS THE SWEAT POURED FORTH. I WAS DAMN CLOSE TO 
NUDE BY THEN.

NEXT STEP


“Taking you down for a CatScan, sir.”

 “Drink these two  tumblers…no rush but drink it all.”


The technicians fiddled around with my hands for a while and
once I was calm enough they fed me into the big donut like you
feed a frozen makerel to a whale.

“Try not of move sir…absolutely still”

I was worn out anyway.  And I was breathing.  The person who got
the  air tank handed to the CatScan technician and disappeared.

What I am trying to describe to you is a classic example of aN Anxiety Attack.

  It happened suddenly without warning.  The source was stress and fear.  I am

  81 years  old.   My 50 year old daughter in law died  last week. Tragic. Everyone in turmoil.
My memory kept  drawing
  up a memory from the even deeper past.  A moment of sheer terror in France.



The reason for my Panic Attack was clear to me as I tried to
explain to others.  Several years ago I had trouble coming
out of an anesthetic at a nice hospital in the south of France.
I had fallen off a cliff while trying to get a better angle picture
of a beautiful lavender field.  Bashed myself up badly and broke
my wrist.  The operation was a success.  Unfortunately I had trouble
coming out of the anesthetic.  I  opened my eyes, saw  Marjorie
across the room…but I could not breathe.  My lungs would not work
correctly as they must have been tuned to some kind of lung
machine.  It took a couple of minutes for me to adjust.  Terrifying
minutes that made  me fear anisthesia.


    So this  anxiety attack was not funny.

It was not funny at the time.  Sounds funny now.  But I know it was
not funny.  I really thought I was going to die…to smother to death 
right there and then.  with 6 to 10 people watching and an ECG machine
chattering and Caistor with my gown fanning me.


  A few weeks earlier I had arrived here in emergency with

 a gall stone lodged in the neck of my gall bladder.  Pain that
I had no wish to ever meet again.  pain that lasted 5 days…no sleep
…three of those days in a hospital bed. Then the moment the surgeon
was about to cut, the pain ended.  The stone slipped off.  No pain.
I told the  surgeon in plain terms “If  it ain;t busted, don’tfix it.”
Get me out of here.  I was released.   What a relief.  a  bunch
of men were out in the lot building an emergency hospital for
the expected rush of Covid 19 patients.  I did not want to be around for that.
The surgeon knew an  operation was the best choice but he also knew
what was coming  with the Pandemic.  “I will get it removed in a couple
of weeks when the pandemic dies down.  That idea was wrong. We  are
now nearly at the end of July.  The Pandemic is still here

No delay…no smart ass comment like “If it  ain;t busted, don’t fix it.”


So I kept my mouth shut while Dr.  Zilbert pushed on my stomach.

“Where does it hurt?”
“Right there, Dr.”

He seemed to already know about my case.   Maybe the fuss down in  the 
Emergency room had reached his ears.  Maybe the CatSkan was clear.  
Bottom  line I was admitted and wheeled into a ward passing through
long empty hallways with no one visible.  The Mississauga Trillim hospital
like hospitals across Canada was half empty as the nation waited
to see what Covid19 was going to do..I was in the middle of noman’s, nowoman’s lamd.

I was in the midst of the care workers I had been reading about

just a day earlier…nurses, doctors, orderlies, sweepers, cooks,…many people.


And I was afraid.


Fear.  Pure and simple. Fear. That is one reason for panic attacks
like  mine.  There can be other  reasons but for me it was the fear

I would wake up and not be able to breathe.


An orderly took over the gurney  from the CatsSkan operator
and landed me in Room 213 at the Mississauga Trillium Hospital.’

“Would you like the window, sir?”
“Sure would.  Last time I was here  Got a window.”
“When was that ?”
“First week of March…same time you were emptying the hospital expectng
Covid19 infested patients by the hundreds.:
“Why were you admitted?”
“Terrible pain….Gall stone lodged in my Gall Bladder….stomach
blown up like a dead pig in a farm field.  Scale of 10 over 10
for pain.  Did not sleep for 5 days…three of those days here
in Trillium.”
“How did we  reduce the pain?”
“Morphine and lots of it.   Have you ever had a morphine trip?
“I had three days and nights on Morphine…right outside my window
I had morphine trips that  were great.  One  night a circus  arrived
with a big brown  bear up a telephone tree that slowly turned into
an oak or maple tree  as the bear looked at me in friendly way. Not
a hungry bear  There was a little white Jack Russel dog that tipped
me off that a trip was about to happen.  Cute little dog. Then some

big sailing ships flooded by with people aboard…silent people.

And on the  shore a bunch of men were trying to pull down
a big tree by hand. My room moved closer….a young woman
sitting cross legged idly plucking rose petals from a huge silver
bowl.  Others standing on high poles as a building was
lowered from the sky for the  men and women to bolt in place..”

“No morphine on the orders today.”
“No, the pain has eased…down to a 5…tolerable…If it skyrocketed
you will turn to morphine.”
“Let’s hope that does not happen.”

Dr.Zilbert  and  others arrived at my bedside and did a little probing
and said the magic word…”Surgery soon”  And away  they went.

 A bubbly Filipino nurse  arrived with a  tub of soapy water. Big smile.

“Would you like  a bath, sir?”

 “Bath?”

“Here you wash your face, I will do the rest of you.”
And she did…swiftly…even the underparts.  She was fast and
cheerflull but no debate invited.  She had two little toddlers of her own…so

risky situation for her.


I had two  nurses…my day nurse  was Agnes, my night 
nurse  was Maria.  Two people who took charge  of people
like me every two or three days.  They just took charge
of my every movement. They checked my  heart and  temperature
every two hours.  Agnes jabbed me  with needles that sucked
my blood and another needle  to prevent blood clotting.They put me
to bed  and got me up.  They were always just a buzzer away.

“Agnes, can you get a message to Dr. Zilbert?”
“I can try…he is a busy man.” 

AGNES…MY DAY SHIFT NURSE




Agnes and Maria and others seemed  to like collecting my blood.  I was beyond caring by  then.


“I am terrified of the  anisthetic. I fear a 
repeat of an experience  in France where
my breathing was compromised.   Tell him
I am scared.


“When  is the operation planned.?”
“We never know.  First we must get you ready.
No  food today.  just cups of tiny ice cubes that
you can eat one at time.”


MY WASHER, BATHER, BED MAKER….DRESSER (NEW GOWNS)  BENEATH THAT MASK  IS A BIG SMILE.  AS  YOU CAN SEE.


MARIA….MY NIGHT SHIFT NURSE

And Maria, my night nurse followed the same routines.

  MARIA would like everyone to appreciate FRONT LINERS like her and so many others.  That is  one reason I am writing this  story


“When will they operate, MARIA?”
“We never know…operations go on here night and day.”
“Today?”
“Best you just suck on ice cubes and sleep.”

On that I fell asleep… only to be gently awakened
at 1 a.m. IN the morning.  The night was dark and hot..




THE SURGERY

“Wake up, Alam/“
“Not more blood…have I any remaining””
“Getting you ready for surgery.”
“At 1 a.m….middle  of the night?”
“Surgery goes 24/7.”

So I rolled myself  onto another gurney and was wheeled through the dark and

largely empty hospital.  Somewhere ahead was the Operation Theatre but first
we had to thread a maize of silent machines.

What could I do to reduce  anxiety?  I could  play SCRABBLE.  I began counting  letters
in words.   H O S P I T A L…8 letters, no good.  C A L M, 4 letters, easy to find…M A R J O R I E . 8 letters, too hard to find, …etc.etc.
This was great.  Totally relaxing.  G A L L B L A D D ER,  10 letters, soon to be removed.



“There you are, sir.”

The orderly slid my gurney into a dark corner where I could see no one at first and then

the surgical team arrived, checked charts.   Eventually someone  came over to talk to me.
It might have been Dr. Zilbert.   Chatty kind of  talk.  Easing  my trepidation.  Others arrived.
I was wheeled into the surgical  room.  One door had air rushing out.  Some kind of pressure
room  to ensure no contaminated air rushed  in I assumed.  I was a bit nervous  but not as much
as I expected.   

One person slipped off my mask and instantly  pressed to my face a rubber mask with a hose  attached.
This  must be the anesthetist.

“Talke your breath…slowly….calmly.”

And that is all I remember.

Hours later I awoke in the same place.  There was someone with me but I know not whom.
No  problem.  A seamless return to breathing.  No fear I would smother to death.  Amazingly calm
feeling.  No pain.

RECOVERY

I was wheeled back  through the empty halls to Room 213 and  gently, with my help, eased  back
into my bed.   There was a  hint of daybreak out the window.  Perhaps around  4 a.m.  I actually
fell back to sleep. 


Some  time later Agnes awoke me…around  6.30 a.m. 

And a whole bunch  of  people began to assess me.   Heart.  Temperature.  Blood, of course.

Then in came my surgeon, Dr. Zilbert with a group of attendants.  He did not say much.
Took a look at my chest where he had poked  holes.   Assured himself  that recovery  was beginning.
I  said nothing really.  Only spoke as  hist team left .

“Please thank the anaesthetist.   Breathing was seamless”
What a dumb thing to say to the man who  had  done the big job
of  removing my Gall Bladder.   He should have been thanked first.
Maybe I did thank  him  first.  Yes.  The visit was fast and super efficient.
Notes were made by one attendant.

I wondered if  they knew about the fool  I  had made of  myself down in Emergency.

Then  breakfast arrived.   liquid mostly.

Then came bath time.  Now that you might find amusing.  How can a bath be amusing?
Flash back to the anxiety  attack when  I was  jumping  around like a Jack in The Box and
many people were trying to hook me up  to the ECG.   They slapped the little stickers around
my upper body mostly but one  sticker wound up on my balls.  I did not know that until Agnes
arrived.

“These stickers have to come off, Alan.”
“Good”
( did not know one was attached to my balls.)
“This one may  be a little tricky.”
(And she yanked it off…wow!  Not because it hurt as much as
because it was embarrassing.)”
“Is  that sticker common?”
“Not  at all.   You  must have  been jumping around  a lot at the time.”
“Not proud of myself…but yes  I was jumping around.”

Then my bath.
“You wash  your face,I will do the rest of you.”
As I washed my face my cheerful  nurse washed the  rest of  my body…all
of it…it was done quickly…all  body parts,

AGNES … AND THE CRUCIAL TEST

“Have  you passed gas yet?”
“Yes.”   By Then I knew  that all body functions  had
to be operational before  recovery was  complete.
Farting  is important.

“Have you had a movement yet?”
Funny word  ‘movement’ but I  knew what she meant.
“No.  Bunged  up I think.”
“It will happen…when it does, do  not flush.  I want to see it.”
“How important?”
“Very important…means  body  is working…call me the
moment you have that movement.”
“It happened  between shifts so both Maria and Agnes arrived when 
I pressed the buzzier and stood saluting at the bathroom door.
“very good, Alan”  And  she flushed.

Many other things happened but this rather disgusting  incident was critical.
All my systems were working.  There was no blockage.  Just the thought of
a  blockage made me a bit queasy.

I was cleared to go home.   Called  Marjorie.  Slumped into the  wheelchair
and  Agness wheeled me to the hospital entrance  where Marjorie waited.

alan akeoch
July 28,2020”




P.S.  Why do I want this rather sorry behaviour  put in print?   Simple  answer.  I  am very

proud of  our hospital and its staff.   I thought maybe some readers  might even like to
see  the mask covered faces of FRONT LINERS  like  Agnes  and  Maria.