(Not everyone  will be amused)

alan skeoch
Dec. 19, 2018

Marjorie  got a bit of a head cold today which gave me the  chance to look for a gift.
I  combed  through Southern  Ontario from Kalapore to Ravenna, from Clarksburg to Thornbury.
No luck.  Then just as the sun was heading for the horizon as I was homeward bound
I noticed Marian  Black’s sign on the roadside.   Eureka…a stroke of genius. I was
able to find the perfect Made in Ontario gift…a gift that would  last the winter.

A gift that could be  shaped into wondrous  things.   Made in Ontario!

“The search began on Grey Road  2…en route to Feversham, Ravenna and Thornbury…must find gift for Marjorie…one  she could really  use.”

“Not very promising…Kalapore.   Nobody home…nothing to buy.

Then I met Eric  in Thornbury and we got a good start at the cider and beer factory where Kate
poured  us liberal amounts  of all kinds.  “Not the sweet cider…how  about that dark beer?”

We bought a couple of  six packs but decided they were unsuitable  gifts…but the samples sure set us on the right track…or so  we thought.

Then across  the road to the huge antique and collectibles  warehouse….must be gift in here.

Antdiques by the truckload…a canoe for $2,000…a bit steep…no good in winter anyway.

Maybe some  tools  or newell posts…

Hey Alan,  how about these coffee sacks…only $3 each.

How about this coonskin coat for $295

“Al, take a look here…a big antique plow sign for $1400 … or a  hand  made plow for $800…or an iron for $40…No…we just gave up and  hit the rod.

Back down  Grey road #2, I noticed  an odd  windrow of brush…inspected…a whole orchard … young orchard…all pulled out by their roots
with last fall’s apple crop left to rot..   Why?   “Can’t leave an orchard to  go wild…just brings in disease…has to  be destroyed”

Judy  had  quiche ready and  trimmings.  But still no present for Marjorie.

I have to hit the highway home before dark…no gift yet.

Farms did not look too good until I  got to the potato belt around  Redickville.  That is where I  struck  it rich…

And  that is how I met Marian Black, farmer.   Her husband  had a  sign pointing to their potato barn…what a perfect gift. Two…yes, two…50 pound sacks
of  potatoes…Yukon Yellows and  some  kind  of  red skinned potatoes…and Mrs. Black threw in a couple of  huge potatoes that the grader had rejected.

Eureka!  No  longer need search  for a gift.

alan skeoch
Dec. 2018

WHY I HATE GUNS! (WHAT A FOOL I WAS)…alan skeoch dec. 2018


alan skeoch
Dec. 2018

My hatred of guns is  not a philosophical hatred…not something distant…my hatred is close to the bone.   Flesh  and  blood kind of thing.
Guilt is part of my hatred.   It was not always so.  As a kid my brother and  I played endless games  of cowboys and Indians in Dufferin Park.
“Eric, you be the Indian  this time.  No, it’s your turn.”  And we would  fire imaginary bullets at each other.  The cowboys with the gun. The
Indian with his bow and arrow.  All imaginary.  I know this sounds sinister today…even racist.   But it was not so in the dying days of
World  War II.   Guns fitted Canadian society as tight as hand in a glove.  War news was everywhere…newspapers, radio, conversations.
Relatives were overseas in England, Europe, Burma.  My  cousin George was killed in 1944 when his bomber was  strafed  by a German night
fighter.  Plying guns was all  imaginary.  No guns but lots of acting.  I remember coming home with mom in winter from a Bowery Gang movie
when the snow was heavy and  each lawn had so much  they seemed  like the canyons and cliffs of the American wild west.  I was the Indian
on that occasion and Eric  shot me just as  I scaled  a snow heap.  What a chance?  Shot.  I made a spread eagled fall over the brink and my
dead body slid to the sidewalk below where a woman passing buy thought i was really dead.  She screamed.   Eric and I ran to catch up to mom.
Playing guns  had consequences.  In 1944 or 1945 we were too young to understand that the negative images of both ‘white’ cowboys and  “red” Indians.
had racist overtones. Today, in 2018, I  don’t see any kids playing guns anymore.  Should Eric and I apologize?  We loved playing guns. Were we racists?
I wonder if First Nations kids  played  Indians and cowboys…war games…imaginary…where he Indians won?

No I do not have any long term guilt in this case.  In 1944 and 1945, I loved my Wooden tommy gun made by Mr. Samanas, the Polish father of
our  friend  Bobby Samana who lived near us on Sylvan Avenue
in West Toronto.  He made the guns for his own boy and we traded to get one.  It was almost an  exact replica of the Tommy guns being used
by Russian  forces  on the Eastern Front at the time.  We had no idea of any of that.   No guilt at the time.  Not hatred of guns
because everything we did  was imaginary.  I am not sure if we  were even aware a World War was  really happening or happened.

Eric and I  spent a  lot of time playing guns in Dufferin Park.  I think this was a fort we built in the great snow storm of 1944 but  could be 1945 or 1946.
We were our own army firing imaginary bullets at imaginary enemies…in this case mom with her camera.  How do I know it was mom. Simple.
We are saluting.  We recognized mom as  the leader of our family.  Respect your officers.  Right?

The guilt came from a real gun.  Eric and  I were teen agers when Dad gave us  a BB gun for Christmas.  We did  not ask for it…as  a matter of
fact we never expected anything from Dad.  He did not give Christmas presents.  Not because he did not love us.  We knew he did love us because of
how  he described us to his  friends or just about anyone that seemed interested.  “I have two sons.  One is a gutsy bugger and the other is as
stupid as Joe’s dog.”   Eric once told  dad to stop.  “Dad, how  stupid was  Joe/s dog?”  Waited  a  long tome for you to ask.  “Joe’s dog was 
so stupid he jumped over nine bitches to screw his own shadow.”  Doesn’t this sound like love?  Dad often spoke in reverses.  He  wasn’t the
huggy–feely type.

So that year he gave us the gun was a big surprise.  Totally unexpected.  Shocked even mom.  “Red, do you really think the boys needed a gun?”
“Thought it was  time for them to have one.”  In point of fact he had not really thought the idea through.  It was  an impulse as were many of his
more bizarre actions in a life strewn with halter-skelter adventures.   He paid  a dollar downpayment and left the rest of the payments up to us.
Us?  Nope.  Mom would get the bill as usual.

So we had  a gun.  Must have been around the year 1953.  I remember it clearly.  After we got the gun we caught dad firing BB;s at Tom Cats
who were on the back fence serenading our very sexy momma cat.   We lived on then second floor of 455 Annette street by that time.  A small house
with a three room apartment on the upper floor and some really poky little rooms below which Mom rented to Mr. and  Mrs.  Douglas.  Nice
people.  He was a  bartender and she was  an ex-hooker.  They loved  us.   And were always amused  by Dad.  So his targeting of Tom Cats
met with general approval.  Mom was, however, indignant and took the gun away from him once she found Dad in the dark acting as a World
War II sniper on the Eastern Front.   No cat died.  Not sure Dad even hit one of them for they kept yowling their unrequited love songs
to get Tinker’s attention.  “Red,  this gun can only be used  at the farm.  No put it away.”

This is  where my guilt entered.

We packed up for the farm the day after Christmas as  usual.  Grandma and Grandpa expected  us…loved to see us.   They lived  in a Victorian red
brick farm house with no running water and therefore no toilet except the back house under the walnut tree.   Most of the house was like a big ice box 
in winter.  Icicles and  hoar frost in all t he rooms except for the front room where the big wood  stove glowed red as it consumed split maple cordwood.
There wasn’t even  electricity yet.   When we went to bed in the icebox  part of the house, Grandma carried  hot bricks wrapped in newspaper to get
the bed ready for us.  Most nights we all slept in the same bed…mom, eric and me.  Dad did not come with us often because the other loves of his life, gambling
and racehorses drew him away.  Mom’s parents liked  Dad in spite his idiosyncrasies.  A fact that was not true for a lot of people.

So Boxing Day at the Freeman farm was exciting.  Uncle Frank would pick us up at the SilverCreek bus stop or at the corner of the Fifth line.  On bad  winter days
he came down with the team of horses and the big bob sleigh which we run behind  to keep warm then hop back on.  On good winters days he came down with his Model A Ford.  This was a  good  day.  At least it
started that way.   

Grandma had food ready and “I bought a  special bottle of Worcester Sauce for you Alan.  I know how much you love it.”  Truth was I used great gallops of
Worcester sauce to kill the tase of some things, particularly the cold slices of fat marbled beef that were cut from a slab of beef hanging in the cold cellar.  The same was true of 
the potatoes  that were kept buried  in sawdust beside the coal bin in another part of the dirt floor cellar.  Carrots sometimes had the tell take marks of summer
gnawing by wire worms.  Worcester sauce made everything palatable.   Sounds disgusting today when all our food is so perfectly presented in super markets,
   But in those days Grandma and
Grandpa never left the farm.  They had no car and had to rely on others for shopping in town or pay the itinerant bread man and meat man who dropped by
just as the mailman does today.  Or mail woman.  Nor did they have much money.  Mom helped them out from her job as a  garment maker in various Toronto

Don’t get me wrong, Christmas  was  a great time.  Granddad  would tighten the strings on his Stradivarious violin and grandma would get ready on the pump organ and music would fill
the heated  air of that tiny front room.  The Devil’s Dream was my favourite piece of Granddad’s music.  All of us in the front room…jammed in around  the stove and the
pump organ…loving it.  And the dog would  howl to the music as  well.   Then that day in 1953 things went wrong.

We are getting close to the reason I hate guns now.  Get ready..

“Can we use the BB gun, now Mom?”  “Yes, but be careful.”  The word ‘ careful’ had no meaning.  Eric will not like me saying this.  And  I am not proud of my first acton
with the BB gun.

“Eric, walk over beside the tree and turn around, I want to see how powerful these BB’s are.”
“OWWW!  That, really hurt, Alan.  Why did you do that.”
“Just a test”  managed  to hit hm square in the ass.

Eric came at me swinging but relented  when I gave him a few shots  with the gun.  He did not shoot me though.  I think it was  about that time that Eric
lost confidence in me as a brother. “ Alan, you can  be stupid at times,” as  dad said.  I preferred Dad to see me as  a ‘gutsy bugger’ rather than as ’stupid  as Joe’s

Shooing Eric  in the ass was not a good idea.  In spite of his heavy breeks a BB came with enough velocity to leave a little red mark on Eric’s bum.  Or so  he said  later.
Now, almost 65 years later, I do feel guilty about that lapse in judgement.   But worse was  to come.

Cousin Ted Freeman arrived at the farm in the early afternoon.  He came in style.  George Johnson drove down in a decrepit Model T Ford whose next owner would be
the scrap man.  On that winter day in 1953, however, the Model T was running.  “How about a ride around the concession boys?”
Mom nodded approval and we piled in the back seat.  “Can I take the gun?”  No comment from anyone.  Not approval or disapproval.  In retrospect, I wish someone
had taken the gun away from me.    Once we got rolling down past McEcherns and MacLeans, I got the great idea that the Model T could  be a moving gun platform
and I began firing BB’s at will.  I aimed at barn windows for the most part…or machine shop windows.  Down  we went.  The Kerrs had farms on both sides of the road
which meant jumping across Eric to get shots at both barns and  drive sheds.  Then there were the Saunders and the old Boyd Farm.   We were really rolling.  I was
not sure if the BB’s hit the windows or not.  Some did, for sure.  That was one powerful gun.  We stopped  for a  leak at one point and Angus McEchern drove by
in his old red truck.  Ronnie sat beside him.  After they got a hundred yards down the road I took a couple of pot shots at them.  Angus braked the truck and backed up fast.
“Who did that?”  And he pointed to one little round hole in the back window of his truck.  All heads  swivelled my way.   This was not good. As  God is my witness  I  did
not believe a BB gun was that powerful.  

Guilt?  You betcha.  I still feel guilty about that day.  And for the next few weeks I seem to remember paying local farmers  for smashed windows.   Tough to make the payments because  
Eric and I only made half a cent profit from each Star on our Fairview Avenue paper route.  Eric’s share had to be subtracted.  He was not a sniper on that fateful day.
I carried  all the guilt.  For months afterwards I was afraid to even go to the farm.  People looked  at me as if I was an assassin.  I don’t think I hit all the windows targeted that day.  Of that I  was fairly sure 
because for most it was a long distance  from the road to drivesheds .  No matter, mom offered to pay for the damages.   Now, so many years later, I am not sure if I even paid for the windows.   But I still feel the guilt.  And  I did see that
little round hole in Angus McEchern’s truck.  Luckily that hole was in the middle.   I  missed both Angus  and Ronnie.  Not a bad shot.  I remember taking careful
aim to insure I hit the windshield dead in the middle.  And I did.  Stupid is as  stupid does, as Tom Hanks  said in the movie.  I really did not believe a BB gun was that powerful which  is
no excuse.  But I  do remember the sinking feeling when Angus McEchern looked at me.  He was then about 60 years old and one of my rural heroes.  I fell a couple of notches
in his opinion that day but he still seemed to like me.  Perhaps he was thinking “the kid is just like me, prone to stupid  errors like the time I tried to scare Laddie away from my sheep
with a quick  rifle shot aimed at the gravel road but it hit Laddie square in the head.”  Grandma and Grandad loved that dog.  Angus did  not mean to kill him just as I did not mean
to put a BB through his truck window.

The gun?   I think Dad was  told when we got back to the city and I believe he smashed the gun on the Manitoba Maple trunk in our backyard.  Not sure what really 
happened.  Maybe he took the gun back to the store and got his dollar back. Eric and  I  had been gun owners for two days.  Long enough to make me hate guns. 
Guilt is  a  terrible thing.  Mom made me feel a  little better when she gently castigated  Dad for setting a poor example by targeting those Tom cats on Christmas  day.
Did I imagine that dad shared my guilt?  Probably.

alan skeoch
Dec.  2018

P.S.  Just a slightly irrelevant post script lest you think Eric was Lilly white in those days.  He got into trouble as well.  Perhaps not as much as  me since he was  never 
brought home in squad car as  I was after the Mineral Bath fiasco.   But Eric committed a real blunder one day on our paper route.  We figured  speed was important 
for we had many other things to do other than deliver Toronto Daily Star papers to our 60 to 70 homes on Fairview Avenue.  So we developed a mobile system.  if the
papers were rolled tight and one end slipped into the other end, the paper could  be thrown.  That speeded  up things a bit.  But then Eric made the job really mobile
by jamming 20 or so papers into the black iron strap carrier on his bike.  He could drive and throw.  Speed.   That seemed to work until Eric made a monumental mistake.
He threw the paper with too much force and instead of landing on the verandah of one house, it sailed through the window. Smashed  it…shattered.  Worse still, that
was a bathroom window and a woman was having a bath at the time…or so she said.  I don’t believe that last part was true.  She was  irate however and came 
to our house with all kinds of threats.  Foaming at the mouth threats of law suits and police.  Dad was great in these attacks.  Any attack on his boys was  an  attack
on him.  Eric and  I were upstairs on the landing unseen but listening.  Part way through the ladies yelling Dad  intervened with his  usual  remark.  “You old bag, get the
hell of our verandah.”   Scared  her I think.  She expected an  apology at least.   Later Eric  and  I  did  apologize to her which was accepted.  The reason I do not think
anyone was  in the bathtub was that she remained  a customer.  I think we paid for the window.  Maybe.  Memory fails.

P.P,S,.  Another somewhat amusing incident happened on her front lawn.   She had a bunch of squirrels that she fed.  Black squirrels.  Sort of tame squirrels.  Sort of tame
is a misnomer.  They were wild  things.  “Eric, I’ll give you a  quarter if you grab one of those squirrels by the tale.”  And he did.  Moved  cautiously up behind  one and
then snapped  his hand on the tail like an alligator grabbing a duck.  This was not a good idea.  The quarrel quickly reversed itself and tore gashes in Eric’s arm…bad 
gashes.  Bloody gashes.  Mom was  not amused.  “Squirrels  have worms and all  kinds of nasty things living on them…dangerous.  Don’t ever do that again.”
I felt badly.  Really did.  I gave Eric the quarter which was a lot of money in 1953.   For a quarter I could get a huge ice cold overflowing milk shake at the Dairy at
Annette and Runnymede.   So parting with the  quarter was a big event.  

Over the years Eric began to lose confidence in me as his big brother.  And  he got stronger than me.  I am not a fighter and learned  from the school of hard knocks  that
it is better to roll over like a  dog in submission than to trade punches.  That message Eric and I both got by watching the Beanery and junction gangs try to kill each
in battles in Dufferin Park when we were very small.   I remember one of the Beanery guys  trying to defend a girl and a Junction gang member came up behind him and
whacked him with what looked like a iron pipe.  It may have been a wooden club.  No matter, the guy went down.  Better to run than stick around defending girls.  That 
conclusion occurred  before I reached puberty.  In the same situation after puberty I might have played the hero.  Might have.

Always plan an escape route became a  reflex action with me.   One escape failed though.  Like the time  I snatched Eric’s share of the icing on Mom’s cakes.  Eric would eat the cake first
and leave the icing to the last.  Neatly placed on his plate.  I planned to get that icing.  Snatch and grab and run.  Run for the back stairs with the icing in my mouth.  That escape did not work
because Eric figured I would do  the snatch and grab.   So he had locked the door to the old  stairway.  He got me and gave me the ‘what for’ a couple of times.  He was really mad
but not in killing mood because his trap had  worked so well. He laughed.

P.P.S.   I suppose that squad car incident should be explained  a bit.  Lest you think I was  becoming a hardened criminal.   We were in the locker room at Minnies, a big private swimming pool
on Bloor Street across  from High Park.  Swam there often.  As often as  we could  afford.  Minnies was great.  It had a high tower with three levels.  The top level was  so high that
it was  dangerous to take a running jump.  “Some guy did that and got impaled on spears of the fence on the opposite side.  So Minnies  was a place of adventure.  The locker room had
long rows of wooden lockers for our clothes and valuables.  Each swimmer was given a key to his locker.  A very simple key.  “Eric, I bet these keys are the same for every locker.”
“Bet you a  dime they are not.”  “Watch this.” So I took my key and tried it on the next locker.  It did not work.  But there was no time to get my key out.  “Kid rifling lockers  in Row 3…saw him
doing it.”  And all hell broke loose.  I was grabbed  by a couple of goons and dragged to Minnies office where the owner looked at me and  said, “The police are on the way, sit down, you are
in real  trouble.”  Now how could  I get out of that one?  Who would believe I was testing the keys?  Who would believe there was  a dime bet involved?   Eric went home while I waited for the
police…shaking…but not crying.  Stunned.  The policeman took me by the shoulder and talked to me.  Nicely.  I said…stuttered…and said “I was just testing the keys…thought they were all the same.”
No mention of the dime…no need to.  “Come on son, get in the car…I’ll drive you home.”  Yikes!  This could  be worse that going to jail.  Grandma  was visiting us and she was likely on
the front verandah looking for cigarette butts.   She liked to chew tobacco and found  a treasure trove at the Annette Street trolley bus stop.  As we approached our house I said in a trembling voice,
“My grandma is on the verandah…could  you drop me off down the street a bit?”  What a  nice cop.  “Sure son, don’t do  anything stupid again.”  Really good guy.  I slipped out of the squad car
and sauntered  home.  “Eric  got home ahead of you Alan, he’s  upstairs.”   What a narrow escape?  Grandma still had a high opinion me.

I  wondered one thing though.  Suppose dad had been home?  Would  he tell the policeman to “Get the hell off our verandah”?   Dad could do some stupid things too.  Luckily the horses
were running a Woodbine track and Dad was  distracted by his first love…gambling on racehorses.    I know what you are thinking.  Thinking the same ting myself.  I do not think
Eric ever gave me that dime.

alan skeoch
Dec. 2018

Dad, speaking to anyone about his sons.  “We have two sons, one is  a  gutsy bugger and the other is as stupid  as  Joe’s dog.”  Your job?  Which  one is the 
gutsy bugger and which is as stupid as  Joe’s  dog?   Or are the terms fitting both?

Assortment of pictures that show our total innocence I think.

Eric and I coached  football at Parkdale Collegiate for a few years.  We enjoyed  it very much.  Why show this  picture.  Because in spite of
all the dumb things  we did in our lives,  we still got along very well.  Still do.

Guns?  In later years  while  doing a mining exploration job in water Alaska on the edge of the Bering Sea, our crew of five Canadianswere each
armed with big 30-06 rifles.  Elephant guns in case we were attacked  by  Kodiak  Bears.  The pictures  above make me look like a hunter.
Not so.  When dropped  by helicopter at an exploration point we stacked our rifles.  Too heavy to carry.  Never fired a  shot all  summer long.
No bear came very close.  Bears  do not like people much.  We stink.  

And here is Dad…striding purposefully up at the farm…hammer in one hand, his boots in the other.
God, we were lucky to have him as a  playmate and  protector and source of  so much  humour.

And  finally the bullet hole…

Well, BB gun hole.

alan skeoch
Dec.  2018



alan skeoch
Dec.  12,2018

“We are putting a new roof on the farm house.”
“”Some leakage here and there along the line of the old  chimneys…Andy got
a crew of roofers together…professionals with nail  guns and  metal  cutters.”
WHo put on the old roof?”
“Now there is  a good story.”
“Who did  it?”
“Ray…did it all himself…  handled 8 x 3 foot sheets of corrugated aluminum
and put each sheet in place with a hammer and pile of lead head nails. And  did
not slip off to rock gardens below.
“Three guys up on the roof today…how could Ray do  it alone?”
“I don’t rightly know…”
“Who is Ray C.?”
“Died ten years ago…had a farm just above Ospringe…100 acres…pioneer farm 
handed down  from descendent to descendent  I expect until Ray got it.  Ray never married
and  just sort of slipped  into a  lifestyle few of us would emulate.”

The Freeman farmhouse as it was about 1918, one hundred years ago with a cedar shingle roof.  Look at the old  fieldstone foundation…perfect doorways for snakes and mice and other
creatures seeking to escape the descent of winter on the land.   Louisa and Edward freeman on left 1918 and  centre 1948.   Eric Skeoch  Elsie Freeman Skeoch and the last Freeman family dog 
Scottie.  Sunny days, as  they say.

Two Roofers…Ray is on the right in case you did not guess.  Looking at Ray put me in mind the Robert Frost poem about an old man on a winter night.

poem  by Robert Frost

All out of doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him — at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping there, he scared it once again
In clomping off; — and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon, such as she was,
So late-arising, to the broken moon
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man — one man — can’t keep a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It’s thus he does it of a winter night. 


alan skeoch
Dec.  13, 2018

This was  Ray Clough.  Below  is what imagination can do.  My version of the Robert Frost
poem…my old man on a  winter night is Raymond, farmer and roofer.


Icicles on the window frames inside the house this night
as Ray lumbered in  from the warmth of the cattle barn
through the woodshed redolent with the smells of
split pungent cedar and the  candy sweet smell of maple
no time to tarry for the wind hammered  crystalline 
spikes of sleety snow  against his battered  face.
So bad was the night that 
The back kitchen door seemed  reticent to let 
Ray enter, acting as if a monitor off who it  would
accept and  who reject. 
Inside the wood  stove’s beatng heart kept faith
with those who would expire without the 
glowing embers.  Ray was not entirely alone
on this winter night for small grey things
scampered back to their baseboard doorways 
and  larger blacker creatures arrogantly
paused to see Ray enter.  Did Ray bring 
food to expand  relieve ehat near starvation
had shrunk.  Ray kept his boots on for the floor
was cold as fingers of  frost reached  up
from  the dirt floored cellar as if  alive.
Ray was  alone, had  been most of his life.
Loneliness on his farm meant routines clipped
short…straight lines from here to there made
 obvious from the tracks from stove 
to easy chair.   A track that stood  in sharp contrast
to the blackened floor.  The stove was  black
with the spillage of a decade’s neglect.
Here and  there were the bones of meals  long
gone…bones picked clean by the mice and rats
living in the crawl  space between the bricks and
plaster in Ray’s uninsulated domain.
And then  Ray plopped his bony frame  onto 
his eaay greasy overstuffed chair.  And Ray
sat there alone saying nothing but listening
to that winter wind as it ground the icy  sleet
into the once  tight and windproof shell  of his house,
walls that time and neglect had made porous
enough for outside creatures to find their way inside.
Earlier on this cold October night Raymond
had chosen to flee from Alan’s farm where he, alone,
had re-roofed  the ancient house.  
Why did the woman  scream when he knocked
on the darkened front door?  Was he that frightening
to others?   Some gourmet party was in progress
and the smells were sweet yet foreign to Ray whose
taste in food had  been reduced  to oat meal and fried
chicken with a dash of  hard liquor.  Marjorie came to
rescue Ray from the fear he engendered.
“Ray, sorry Alan is  away right now…love your roof,
Come in and meet the girls.”
Wordlessly Ray moved  backwards, down the steps
to the security of his  half ton truck.  He had  cattle to feed
and wood to chop.  An escape to make.
Now he sat alone again on his threadbare chair while
the wood  stove embers and  wild  things in the walls
warmed his  spirits.  He was  alone on this  cold  night
with fear in his  heart engendered by the fear of that woman
who answered Alan’s door with a scream and flight.
More fear in Ray than in the woman’s scream.
A tear dribbled down his face a dripped on his old torn  coat
as it worked its way through his layered clothing to
the  tartan  shirt and  the tip of his inner once white, now grey winter wear.
Clothes that were his costume to stave of the cold to come.
Ray stared  affectionately at he dust clad framed family
on the kitchen wall beside the calendars  nailed one atop the other.
His  reminder of grandparents long gone but present still.
They would  understand his tears and were they here this night
they would grasp  his  lean shoulders  with a warm embrace
but that was not to be…never to be…for Ray was alone
and would remain  so  until his  dying day 
which  he recognized was not that far away.
“Maybe,” he thought, “I’ll see Alan in the morning

And Ray fell asleep in the chair beside the stove
as he did often on these cold  pre-winter nights.
His dream was a  wish.  A wish that the woman at the door
did not scream but Ray also wished he had the nerve
 to join the
cluster of females as  they supped on foods fantastic
and  drank the wine of friendship.  A nice dream.
A false dream.  A sad dream.
The tear by then had been absorbed then evaporated
in his clothing and wafted as  a puff of air through the kitchen.  
The tear had  risen from his  shirt
and coursed through the rest of the
 house in search of something…anything…
unseen the tear floated  to the bedroom where Ray occasionally slept
beneath his grandmothers patchwork quilt.  
The tear eventually cooled and attached  itself
to the photograph of Ray’s parents hanging above his  bed.
There was  a time when Ray was not alone.
But that time was long gone.
And  soon Ray felt so would he.
Asleep, asleep…
Ray’s time worn fedorah slipped from his head silently
No sound in the house for the embers  were now ash
And the rat beneath the stove had curled up in comfort
As had the curled up garter snakes whose long bodies
slid easily through the chinks in the old  fieldstone foundation 
Also  curled in comfort were two raccoons, one in  each
abandoned  chimney…asleep until mid January when
the urge to copulate would assert itself and the empty chimneys
would again become a family homes.
Mice scampered across the dirt engraved floor with its
resistent knots giving a  rolling effect.  Some knots polished
by Ray’s heavy boots, sometimes  encrusted with manure, but
most of the floor was  black  … unswept.
“Needs a  woman’s hand”, commented  the odd visitor but
visitors were few and far between as Ray drifted deeper into loneliness.
His sleep was deep by now…body  limp in the arms of that soft chair
now contoured to Ray’s body shape for he slept here often.

All things considered, Ray was content.
He lived  as he liked to live
Did what he liked to do
Had  only the cattle to worry about…

But he had  been jolted that night.
Why did that woman scream?
Scared  Ray.  Worried  him.

just one old  man ALONE.

alan skeoch
Dec.  13, 2018

The story of Ray Clough was triggered  by the three man crew ripping off Ray’s  roof and putting on a roof less
prone to leakage.  That was  Dec. 12 and 13, 2018.    Ray’s  roof had lasted nearly 25 years and would last another 25 for sure but little bits of seepage
would bring wood rot and limit the life of the farm house.   Be nice to see it survive the 21st century.  Outlive me and
certainly out live Ray for he died just a couple of years  after roofing the house.  His visit to collect his pay, a visit that
triggered the woman’s scream was talked about by the gourmet women for some time.  He appeared in the dark
dressed as in his picture.  His clothes  were always the same.  “He was not the marrying kind’, they said not really
knowing Ray at all.

Below are the new roofers.  Three young men from Poland whose English was  limited.   They came armed  with power
nailing guns and motorized shears to shape the roofing panels.  When Ray did the job he used  a  hammer, lead headed nails
and tin snipping shears.   And he did  it alone.

Marjorie did  not scream that night.  She asked  Ray to come inside but by then he was backing up fast and reaching for the keys to his half ton truck.   The Gourmet club now had a different
subject of conversation.  Concerned that they had scared poor Ray.  And they had.

CORRECTION: WHO STOLE MY WOOLY MAMMOTH TOOTH? (Apologies to those falsely accused)


alan skeoch
Dec.  2018

Big Mistake…my lost tooth came from a  Woolly Mammoth…not a Mastodont.  Apologies  to all including the Royal Ontario Museum

The molars of Woolly Mammoths  are ‘layered’…as was the tooth  given to me by the placer gold  miner in 1960

That ‘mastodont tooth at the Royal  Ontario Museum was too dissimilar from the tooth given to me by the gold miner in
Dublin Gulch.   My tooth had layers of tooth stuff (wrong word)…sort of like a sandwich…a big thick sandwich.    The mastodont (or mastodon) 
tooth was solid  much like my own molars.  

My tooth belonged to a Mammoth as opposed to a Mastodon?   The two creatures  
are often confused  because they lived about the same time and both became extinct in the last ice age.  With one exception, s herd
of small hairy mammoths survived the ice age living on Wrangel Island  until about 4,000 years ago when they were likely killed  by human

So I searched for a picture of a  hairy mammoth tooth and, Presto, it matched my memory of my ancient tooth exactly.  

Woolly mammoth molar..ridged 

Not only does the tooth match but the movement matches.  Mastodons  were found  in North and Central  America from 30 million years  ago until
about 12,000 years  ago when they disappeared along with most Hairy Mammoths.  Scientists have mixed  opinions about the causes of their 
extinction but most scientists believe we human beings had a lot to do with it.

 Mammoths evolved in Africa 5.1 million years  ago and  moved  through Asia eventually to North America.  The woolly or hairy mammoth from which
my tooth came evolved 250.000 years ago.  Change is slow but happens  constantly.

A lot of people get the two confused.   So I am not alone.  They look alike.  One of the key differences is the teeth.  A mastodon tooth has cone shaped
cusps which  facilitate the crushing of leave and wooden branches.  The Woolly mammoth on the oher hand  had ridged  molars more suited to grazing
on grasses.   

Both mastodons and mammoths had long curved tusks used to scrape snow and ice  away from vegetation.

The Woolly Mammoth with the fat layer behind the neck and the layered to tooth (right)

Woolly mammoths also had  an extra hump on their backs to store fat for the biter northern winters.

The Mastodon…best distinguished from a  Woolly Mammoth by the absence
of a pillow  of fat behind the neck.  

Mastodont (mastodon) teeth had cone  shaped  cusps for eating branches.

 We know  a lot more  about the Woolly Mammoth because we have discovered so many pieces of them.  In Siberia whole carcasses

of Woolly Mammoths  have been found when slabs of ancient ice melt…flesh, hair, skin. bones and teeth.  And more will  be found now the
earth is warming so  fast. So much has been found that a few scientists have considered using mammoth genes to recreate the animals with
Asian  elephants as the hosts.   Imagine that.   The idea is not quite as preposterous as it sounds.  Mixing Mammoth genes  from frozen carcasses  with
Asian elephants would  increase their tolerance to the cold…allow them to trample the tundra and make room for the grasses that once
flourished there.  The grasses would feed a  whole raft of animals.  And impede the melting of permanence frost thereby stopping the
release of immense quantities of carbon into our polluted  atmosphere.  Wait a minute…this gets  just too fantastic.  I cannot grasp it so I better STOP!
Pushing an idea so far that it becomes  science fiction.  But tinkering goes on and  on.

Guess  what?  Now I  know who has my Woolly Mammoth tooth.  Must be these gene manipulators.  A Parkdale student must be among them.  With
a little more tracking I may find the culprit.  Student?  No, it could be a teacher.

alan skeoch
dec. 9, 2018

WHO STOLE MY MASTODONT TOOTH? (A visit to the Royal Ontario Museum Dec. 8, 2018)

(Memories  while touring dinosaur exhibit)

Mastodon…12,000 years old

Answer:  We  wanted  to see my lost tooth…the story will unfurl below

Mastodont Tooth…12,000 years  old

alan skeoch
Dec.  8, 2018

“Hey Marjorie, we’ve got two hours to kill, let’s go to the ROM?”
“One of the best dinosaur exhibits in the world.”
“Also have a spider special somewhere in there.”
“What does the ROM look like to you?”
“Sort of looks  like a  kind  of Eiffel Tower that has fallen over.”
“Now what is  your real reason for the visit?”
“My lost MASTODON TOOTH…I would like to see it again.”
“A tooth?  We are looking for a tooth?”
“You betcha!”
“How much will it cost?”
“$35 for the two of us.”
“Better be worthwhile.”

“The dinosaur exhibit alone will be worth every penny….”

“Looks like a modernistic  Eiffel Tower has collapsed…”that’s the Royal Ontario Museum”

“We only have two hours…let’s find the TOOTH first.”

“Why so important to you, Alan?”
“Long story but here is the short version.  In 1960 I was prospecting in the Yukon Territory and found Dublin Gulch where
an American gold seeker was using hydraulic hoses to wash off the overburden to reach gold pay dust.  He had a slab of
gold as his personal knuckle duster.  Gave me some gold dust which I mailed to you…remember?”
“Sparkle on black electric tape in the letter.”
“Right.  Well he also found the bones  and tusks  of Mastodonts.  Lots of them as Dublin Gulch was a 12,000 year old
boneyard.  The tusks were hauled  up to his cabin along with ancient bones.  And a huge Mastodont  Tooth which he
gave to me.  A treasure.”
“Lost it…right? “
“Stolen.  I used the tooth in my early history classes at Parkdale C. I.  Kept it in my cupboard.  One year it was there…the
next year it was gone.  Stolen.  What a great prop that was for my lessons on human origins in North America…the Mastodonts 
walked  across the Land Bridge from Siberia to Alaska…people followed…thousands of years ago.”
“That’s the short version?”
“Some day I will tell you the long version.”

“Mastodont teeth in jaw.  They had two sets and once they were ground  down the poor
old Mastodonts starved to death.  I suppose that could happen to us if there were
no dentists to do tooth implants.”

“These ancient ivory Mastodon tusks have been carved into pieces  of art…valuable.”

“So we have  found the tooth…Now What?”
“Let’s tour the gallery…see what we can.”

“Alan, the sign says this ugly looking slug may have been one of our ancestors.”
“Speaks  to the origin of life on earth.”
“Other weird creatures in those ancient seas … below.”

“Creatures as beautiful as this bird have evolved…50 million of them according to the sign.”

“Lots preserved in bottles somewhere in the bowels  of the ROM”

“And here is the DODO BIRD…probably our most famous extinct creature … has become a popular term today.”

“And here is an Arctic Fox with a Lemming in its mouth…supposed  to be millions of Lemmings.”
“Ever see one?”
“Never…worked in Alaska on the edge of the Bering Sea…expected to see lemming but never did…
and only once did I catch side of a Kodiak Bear.  Wild  things are not easily found…less and less so
as human beings with guns move into their territories.  Sad.

“Wow…look at them all…so many…bewildering…Dinosaurs.”
“What does  Dinosaur mean?”
“Terrible Lizard…term fits I think.”

“That is the head of a huge armoured fish … so big and hungry that you would make a tasty meal…could 
swallow and chomp you with ease.”

“Look at the bone yard…reminds me of Dublin Gulch…”

“The ROM has made a game of Dinosaur watching…This is Tyranosaurus Rex…big time predator 66 million years ago.

“Sign on the floor says STAND HERE…take your picture and send it home by Email.”
“Kids and adults lined up … big kids first.”

“Look down this gallery…see the flying creature at the end…bat like wings maybe 20 feet across…”
“I can’s see it Alan.”
“You will later.”

“The age of dinosaurs and other living things could not exist without the evolution of plants first.”
“Dinosaur had to eat something, right?”
“Yep…the herbivorous dinosaurs ate a lot of farms..tons of them.”
“Then the predatory dinosaurs ate them…right?”
“Survival of fittest … or the more ghoulish comment that “Nature is RED IN

THE skies  of earth some 65 million years ago were quite frightening as these huge Pterosaurs drifted on thermal  updrafts for miles and
miles with hardly a beat of their wings.”
“Look at the mouth on that big one.”
“Used the mouth to shovel up fish as it flew close to the water.”
“Had teeth that pointed  inwards…spikes..”
“Fish hooks.”

“How could a dinosaur learn to fly?”
“I do not know.”
“Bones must have been heavy…too heavy for flight.”
“Apparently the bones slowly evolved … became lighter and lighter…then some time in the deep past a dinosaur said ‘Look at me, I can fly”
“Any of these Pterosaurs around today?”
“Nope they all died in the Fifth Extinction 65 million years ago.”
“Then where did birds come from?”
“Birds evolved differently…I have no quick  answer for that…Do some work yourself…find out.”
“Look at those long bony fingers on that big pterosaur.”
“Now imagine a huge piece of skin that stretched  from arm to foot…so big that once airborne these
things could drift on the wind with no need to flap much.”

“Got to go now.”
“Gift shop.”
“Alan, we could buy this fake tiger for $1,000…full size.”


“Christmas Luncheon at Victoria College where we first met…remember?”
“Yes, you leaned  out the window of your residence while I was running laps
to get ready for a football game.”
“You hollered…’Doing anything tonight?”
“I answered…”Not much”
“you responded…”See you tonight.”
“And so began our love affair…I am 80 now and you are a little younger.”
“Well, we’re not as old as the dinosaurs…that’s a comfort.”
“I wonder if our civilization, with its glass and aluminum towers, will last 
as long as those dinosaurs did?”

“Art in paint and timber inside Victoria College.”
“Will any of this survive 12,000 years like the Mastodon Tooth?

“The wind is blowing icy air down from the Arctic, Alan.”
“Climate change is happening…takes  time…the world is  getting warmer in slow steps…DON’T LET COOL AIR FOOL YOU.”
“A lot of people Talk about the  Sixth Extinction…blame human beings for it…we are changing the earth”
“Not always for the better.”
“Visiting the ROM is a sobering experience.”

“The footprint of a dinosaur.”
“The hand print of a human being.”
“65 million years apart.

“Let’s go home.”
“Just a thought…I  wonder if the ROM stole my Mastodon Tooth.”
“I should have scratched  my name on the tooth.”

alan Skeoch
Dec. 8, 2018

What was the secret question I asked earlier?  HOW DID BIRDS  EVOLVE?
BIRDS ARE NOT PTEROSAURS.  **Your job is to find the answer.

Post Script Below:  Changing Times and  survival


(a feel good  story of Christmas Present and Christmas Past)


I have read  many criticisms  of our computer age but the one that
concerned  me the most was the comment that we no longer have
face  on friendships…flesh  and blood contacts…meet people who
we can see and touch.   That comment struck me as true and very

Guess what ?  The anonymity of  Facebook is  just not true.
 Marjorie and I  discovered that the word anonymity was not even part of
the vocabulary of these Facebook  users
… Christine’s smile (above)  confirms.

 Marjorie made contact with this  diverse group of Facebook friends
who  meet regularly in the middle of High Park.  They have one thing in
common…their ages and Roncesvales Avenue

This is Carl who organized it all and  supervised the gift giving and provided me with
a huge box which I expected to contain wealth beyond  my dreams.  Instead I received
a  pile of rubber mud  mats “that could be made to fit any car.”

And on Dec. 7, 2018 Carl organized a big Christmas party complete
with gifts (under $15) for everyone.  We became part of this  meeting.
Marjorie made cookies, big butter tarts and  a bright red cowgirl hat.  I wrote a story
about a dinosaur tooth and the mystery of time.  A replica of the dinosaur
tooth was included.   Goofy?   Right.  A lot of the gifts had a goofy
nature.  In my case I got that  huge box of rubber mud  mats that would
fit any car as long as you could use a big scissors.  Just opening the
box was an ordeal  worse than any snowstorm.

John was wearing a bright red  Christmas sweater with a prominent
Christian cross hanging from his neck.  “Are you a priest?”  “Nope, this
was my mother’s necklace.  I put it on 17years ago when vowed to never
touch a  drink again.   Sitting nearby was a man who gave my wife his
Christmas package which was a Moosehead Beer special.   Now who
could not enjoy meeting such people.  Some even had special Christmas
sweaters that were hand knitted.

It was  a grand experience.  Especially so since several of my ex students
from Parkdale Collegiate were present.  And they remembered  me.
One young  lady, Lucy, even confessed  she lied to me back in 1965
about doing her homework.  Confessional?  Seemed so.  I gave her
absolution ‘“but sorry to say I will have to dock you ten marks.”
Silly?   That’s the nice thing about the passage of time.  Being silly.
“Remember Joan, June and Carmen, …sir?”  “Sure  do.  I remember
Carmen set their house on fire by hiding in the closet  smoking a
cigarette.  And  June gave me her old  lawn mower years  ago…cast 
iron push kind…still have it.  Kids…students…became friends but still 
called  me sir.”
Another remembered my odd behaviour when teaching, “You would 
look at me…direct the question to me…but use the name of another
classmate on the other side of the room. “Classes were always fun, sir”

Jerry and Marilyn sat with Marjorie and me.  We have known each
other for sixty years.  Our paths  cross in the most unusual situations.

“Sir! “ Amazing to still be called  sir after nearly half a century.
 I am 80 years old and the students at the meeting must be
close to 70.  Yet they still called  me sir.  Heart warming.  Respected.

There were nearly 20 people at tis Christmas Party.  People from 
the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  As mentioned They were not brought together by schools,
churches,  businesses, sports…no, they got to know each other on
Facebook and they all lived within walking distance of Roncesvales

alan skeoch
Dec. 7, 2018

See  pictures below…and if you really have noting better to do then
read the sequel which has little to do with Facebook but a lot to do
with my memories  of the High Park zoo.

Marjorie Skeoch with Gerry and Marilyn Holmes…our paths have crossed  for more than half a century.  Marjorie touched  base with
this crowd, “Alan, we must go to their Christmas Party…we were Roncesvales people too.”

This  is the Facebook gang having their annual Christmas party in the Grenadier Restaurant in the centre of High Park



Dad was  not exactly the doting parent.  And when he took on a  parenting role it usually led  to
a memorable  adventure.   Some of those adventures involved High Park.  Mom was the real
caregiver of  our family  and  Dad was more like the third child.   He  was no shrinking  violet though.
Quite the reverse.  He seemed  to have been given a double dose of testosterone when compared
to other fathers.   Tough and rough and endearing.  Loved.

THESE PHOTOS are a  little out of period except for the pic os Eric and me in Granddad’s wheelbarrow. 
But the pics will help the two stories  a bit.  Dad  made our lives  one constant adventure.  Mom kept us


As we exited the Grenadier Restaurant two of Dad’s  missteps  as a  parent came to mind because
both of them originated  damn close to the Grenadier Restaurant.

1)  The High Park Zoo is built in a little valley that weaves  southward  through the park.  In 1946 to 1947,
Mom asked dad.  “Why don’t you take the boys  to the High Park zoo?”  He could  find no good excuse
to avoid  the zoo since the horses were not running at either the Dufferin or Woodbine racetracks.
So  we went to the zoo. Most people view the zoo from deep in the valley but dad never did what most
people like to do.  “Let’s see the zoo from the backside…no one goes there.”  Seemed  like a  food idea
except for the fact that in 1946 the maintenance standards were not high.   Just as we reached the
wild  pig  enclosure disaster struck.  Now wild pigs are called  peccaries.  They are small but they are
also  vicious.  And in 1946 they seemed to be breeding like rabbits.  There were dozens of them behind
the wire fence.   Behind the fence be damned.  “Those goddamn pigs are free…and they out to get us.
Alan run like a son of a bitch while I grab Eric.”  And we all ran as fast as  we could with a couple of dozen
peccaries chasing us with their little tusks gleaming.   We survived but Dad was sweating.  Not sure if he
told  us  to “keep your goddamn  mouths  shut” when we got home.


2)  Just west of the Grenadier Restaurant is  the long rather steep hill that runs down to Grenadier Pond
where it was once believed the British Grenadiers drowned  with their cannons  while retreating from the
American troops  who took Fort York in the War of 1812.  Myth of course.  Let’s be fair and call it embellished
truth.   In 1946 to 1947, that long hill was a toboggan run.   Long, steep and fast.  No children romp in the snow.
This toboggan run was serious  business.  That year we got a sleigh for Christmas.  A metal sleight with metal runners
and a wooden steering bar.  Beautiful thing.  Eric  and  I looked forward to using it.  But we never got a chance.
“Red, why don’t you take the kids to High Park to try out their new sleigh?”  Again he was trapped.   So we hopped
on College Street Car that t germinated in High Park.  And there before us was the toboggan run.  Lots  of people
yelling and  screaming as they thundered down the hill and out onto the ice of Grenadier Pond.  We were nervous.
No need to be tough.  “OK, boys, let me test the sleigh first.”  Dad was  a big man…a tough man…a 220 pound 
tire builder at Dunlop Tire Corporation.  The sleigh seemed small when he plopped  his  body on it face down with
hands on the steering bar.  “Boys, you wait here…see how she goes.”  And  away he went.  and  we waited…and
waited.   He did not come back.  Eventually we walked  down the hill where a crowd had gathered.  Dad had  rocketed
his way down the ice covered toboggan run going so fast that the iron runners on the sleigh gave him enough speed
to become airborne.  He flew out of the wood channels, sailed  through the air for a short while and then hit a tree
dead on.  Broke his  ribs as it turned out.  He was badly hurt but managed to get us home holding his rib cage all the while

To us the big disaster was our brand new broken sleigh.  

alan skeoch
Dec. 7, 2018