BIG SNOW STORM,     january 27 -28, 2019  RECOVERY WAS  NOT EASY

alan skeoch
Jan. 30, 2019

NOW don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that global warming is happening in spite of Ford  and Trump.   So this big snow  storm is unusual…may even
be remembered with envy as the planet becomes a hot box.   Picture of Andrew…and if you look closely you can see me in his glasses reflection.

About 25 cm. or more fell…soft fluffy stuff until I tried to shovel out the farm lane…gave up…then Andrew arrived with my tractor and plow.

Even the tractor an plow had trouble…got stuck in deep snow four times and had to shovel a pathway then rev up the tractor from modest to angry…

Andrew dressed like an astronaut,  Marjorie feeding the birds, and Woody doing nothing much beside the fireplace.





alan skeoch
January 2019

When I told Marjorie I was going to write a story about Falling, she wondered if I meant 
Falling in Love.  Not so.  Falling in Love would be a good story mind you but this sequence of
stories is about falling and hurting yourself.  Rather I should falling and hurting myself.
I am sure anyone who reads this story will have his or her own stories about falling.
Why?  Because everybody falls.   The lucky ones fall in love.  Others just fall and bash
up their bodies.


“ALAN, the ice on the Credit River is perfect.  One sheet of perfect ice from Port Credit to the Q.E.W. bridge.  Let’s go skating…I mean real skating
not that baby circling stuff.”
“Wonderful idea”
“Just watch out for the cracks…otherwise no problem.”

Well, as things turned out there was one other nearly invisible problem.  Sand.  Wind blown sand.  I was skating as free as a bird…moving with the wind
on a great water day when  WHAM!  My blades hit the sand.  My skates stopped…dead stop…jettisoned me forward so fast that my nose hit the ice before my arms.  Some of
you may not know that the human nose is not meant to be a skate blade.  Look below for my demonstration of this fact.

This is the opening photo/print essay on how falling has affected my life on this earth.
‘Who gives a sweet damn about your life, Alan?’  Good question.  if you feel that way
then please do not read any farther.   But should you be like every other human being
on the planet you will have fallen a few times. Sometimes with horrific consequences
sometimes all you have to do is get back on your feet.  Some people never get back
on their feet.

Makes a person wonder abut bipedalism.   Were we meant to walk on two feet?
Our rib cages suit four legged life better.  Bi-pedalism has some good points…i.e.
we can read, write and lace up our skates.   But look at my nose?  Yuk!

Falling!  Wow, have I ever had some bad falls.  Yet, I am still standing.

alan skeoch
January 2019

FALLING is as natural as sitting and standing but has more negative consequences.


 I had a bad  fall was  back in 1952 when  I got ‘doored”.   I  was going into Grade 8 when Mom said that her friend  Vi  Couling
needed an office boy at the Queens Park Parliament buildings.  What a wonderful opportunity so I cycled all the way downtown early each
morning on my bike and then returned at night.  A long long bicycle ride.  Fourteen and  full of piss and vinegar…energy to burn…until that
car door suddenly opened  in front of me in the rush  hour traffic on St. George Street.  The door cut into my shoulder like a machete
cutting sugar cane.  Whomp!  I tumbled to the sidewalk and the front wheel of my bike got twisted.   I remember the woman who opened
the door scream “Are you hurt?”  What to say?  “No, I’ll be fine.”  Others stopped.  Something was wrong with my body.  I could not lift my
left arm…it  sort of hung there.  No pain or at least not much pain.  The lady slammed the door shut and took off up  the street and the car
melted into the traffic flow.   That left me and my bike half in the  gutter and half on the sidewalk.  The term ‘doored’ had  not been  coined
back then.  “Somehow, Alan, you have to get home.” But home was a long way to the north west. My bike was  driveable once the handlebars
were forced  back a bit.  My left arm however was not as easily remedied.  I could pedal  the bike with my right hand steering and braking.
But it was not going to easy.  Nothing else could I do.  Finding help when hurt is not easy.  But there was  one thing I could do.  I could sing.
And I did.  Lyrics from the King and  I. “Whenever I feel afraid, Ihold my head erect, and whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect I’m 
afraid.”  Over and over again I  mumbled this song.  It took about an hour or maybe longer to wend my way from Queen’s Park to 455
Annette Street where  I knew mom would  be waiting. “Alan, what happened, you’re white as a sheet.” “Got hit by a  car door…I think 
something is broken.”  Mom  washed  me up and  we hustled by bus to St. Joseph’s hospital where an X Ray revealed  I had a broken
clavicle.  A simple  break…the bone was in place.  A sling and some aspirins helped.  Next day I went back to work on the bus and street car
which was  a lot less fun than whistling my way through the city by bicycle.  Jammed into a  rush hour crowd  proved to cause other problems
when a pervert tried to rub up against me.  “My that man is  close to me…almost like his hand is in my pocket.”  His hand  was in my
pocket!  His intentions were sexual.  He scared me more than being whacked by the car door.   What to do?  I got off the street car fast
and waited for the next one.  That cost me a double fare.  Seemed it was safer on my bicycle…and cheaper.   As soon as I could
I got back on my bike.

Aside:  One amusing event happened on the job when Deputy Provincial Secretary R. J. Cudney called me to his office.

“Alan, we have a problem.”
“Yes sir.”
“There are ten marriage licences  missing.”
“yes, sir?”
You have  been putting the great seal of Ontario on the licences  in batches of 250.”
“I have … yes  sir.”
“Did you notice any discrepancy?  Numbering is consecutive.”
“No, sir…”
“Thank you, Alan, you may go.”

What was really happening here?  Took me a  while to understand that the Deputy
Provincial Secretary was checking to see if I has stolen TEN marriage licenses.
Mr. Cudney never said that directly.  What in hell’s half acre would i want with
ten marriage licences?  Ten wives in the future, maybe?  In 1952 I could barely
look at girls…let alone future wives.  Mr. Cudney came to that conclusion and sent
a man to check with the printer whose numbering system must have made an error.
Missing marriage licences was a serious business.

But why would I even be a suspect?  Good reason.  My job was a very responsible job.

“Alan, your job is to put the Great Seal of Ontario on all of our official documents…this big silver seal…goes in  a press like this.
In addition, Alan I want to show you how to but a blue ribbon and  hot wax seal of letters of incorporation.  Shove this sharpened
tool through the top left corner , made a cross with the ribbons, then melt the hot wax over the place where the blue ribbon crosses and push this seal into
the hot wax.”

I did that job for the full Grade 8 summer.  Loved it.  I also sent many letters of congratulation for Golden Wedding anniversaries.
Just for fun I sent several congrats with the big seal to my Grandmother and Grandfather on the farm near Acton…maybe sent
a dozen or so.   I think Mr. Cudney became aware of this juvenile indiscretion and ignored  it.  He was a very formal man.  I filled
his water thermos every morning…a silver jug kind of thing.  Formal relationship.  Office boy.  But He trusted me.  How do  I know that?

“Alan, the CNE starts next week and I would like you to protect the Great Seal of Ontario.”
How do I do that, sir?”
“You will work nights…all night…guarding the Great Seal in the Government Building…are you willing?”
“yes sir.”
“Every night, all night long?”
“yes sir.”
Now that was a nice job.  All alone in the government building.  Not boring at all.  In the 1950’s the government building was  full of interesting 
things.  One branch had a  demonstration involving a  long electric train.  I  loved  working that.  The central quadrangle was, however,   was the most
fascinating because Lands and Forest brought in live Ontario wild animals in cages…raccoons,  skunks, foxes, beavers…and  many  fish tanks
with pike, trout, pickerel…maybe even a muskelunge.   As the evenings wore on I made a great discovery that really kept me awake and  interested.
The open air quadrangle was alive with creatures other than those imported.  Rats! Lots of  rats…black, brown, beige…big, small…shy and bold.
So I would  hide behind a pillar and  count to fifty then peak out.  Rats  all over the place.  Once they saw my face they scampered away and disappeared….
as if they never existed.  Mom made me a midnight meal and  gave me a thermos of milk…I kept that away from the rats.

I took the job very seriously but today in 2019, I have a second thought.  Just suppose someone wanted to steam the Great Seal of Ontario.
And suppose that person decided the best time to steal would be at night.  Do you think a fourteen year old boy would  be able to prevent the
theft.  Mr. Cudney did not arm me with a weapon.   That adventure seems very strange.  But it happened … after I was doored.


I loved my Humber Sports racing bicycle with hand  grip brakes,  But it failed to reciprocate the love one day On Evelyn Avenue.  I was racing down
Evelyn heading for a visit with my friend Russ Vanstone.  Going as fast I could.  Now the tires and wheel rims of racing bikes are very narrow…maybe
an inch or so in diameter.  As it so happened  the open spaces in sewer grates is about 1.5 inches.  I discovered this the hard  way.  My front wheel 
suddenly dropped and locked in sewer grate. The bike stopped but I did not stop. I was catapulted over the handlebars and landed face first on the
bricks and cement of the sidewalk.   My facial skin was ripped badly.  What to do?  I had to get home to mom who would know whatever first aid
was needed.   

“Alan,  what happened?”
“I fell, bike got caught in sewer.”
“You’ve got brush burns on face and  shoulders….bad  ones.”

That was all I remembered.  Mom stripped me and got me in the bathtub to gently remove the little stones imbedded in my skin…not just on my face.
Shoulders as well as I was  not wearing a shirt.  But that help I do  not remember.
When I came to I was shocked to find myself standing stark nude in our bath tub while mom and her friend Ina were carefully cleaning me up.  Now
that was embarrasing.


During the 1940’s we rented the second floor of a Victorian mansion that was on the corner of Gladstone Avenue and Sylvan Avenue.  The house was really
inside Dufferin Park.  Gone now.  Living in the park was entertaining since there was a lot of gang activity.  Children left to do  whatever they wanted because
their fathers were overseas fighting World  War II.  But that is  just speculation on my part.  The fact of gang activity cannot be denied however.  Two big gangs, Junction 

  gange and Beanery gang liked to sort things out with fists and  weapons.  They did this regularly as I remember.  One weapon of choice was the long necked beer bottle. Grab

the bottle by the neck, slam the bottom on a stone or a cement light standard and Presto…a very lethal looking weapon.  Held in the hand by the neck meant the
sharp shards of broken glass could be rammed into an adversary.   After the fights the weapons were often discarded  in the park.  Discarding weapons  happened
very fast once the police arrived.  One Saturday or Sunday afternoon mom took Eric and  I for stroll through the park.  We decided to play a game of Blind Man’s
Bluff.  A scarf or big handkerchief was tied around my eyes and my job was to find Eric.

“Can you see, Alan?”
“Let me turn you around  a few times like this..” I was pivoted
“Now try and find Eric. He is standing still near you somewhere.”

I tripped  on a tree root.  Even today I  remember the exact spot that it happened.  I fell and by chance
one of the beer bottle weapons had been discarded near the tree root.  My left leg fell on the sharp shards
cutting me badly.  Mom and  Eric were aghast.  I was scared…would  I bleed to death?

“Alan, come here, we will have get you to a hospital for some stitches:”
“Stiches?  Hospital?”
“I am not going,”  I began to run home.
“Come back here Alan.”

I ran up the stairs, past our landlady Mrs. Southwick, then into our big communal bedroom.  

“Red, get Alan…he cut himself in the park.”
“Where is he?”
“In the bedroom, under the bed…holding on to the springs.”
“I’ll get him.”

Then Dad lifted up the bed and grabbed me wrenching me free from my
death grip on the bed springs.  After that I do  not remember much.  But proof that ithappened is easy
to find for the scar just above my ankle remains visible to this day.


Just a short account but I have never told this story to anyone.  Every time I touch the back of my
head I am reminded of a totally unexpected fall  I had  back in high school.   Gym class with either
Dunc Green or Streak  McLelland gave me a kind of  confidence I did not deserve.  On the  day in
question I finally mastered a box horse  somersault.  Made  me  feel pretty good so as I left
school that afternoon I noticed a bar that ran along the high chain link fence that surrounded our
football field at Humberside.  There was a gap in the fence so students could come  and
go.  At the top of gap…about 8 feet up…was a bar running parallel to the ground. A challenge.
I took a run, jumped up and grabbed the bar.  Expected to swing there like the high wire acrobats.
But the bar swivelled.  And  I fell backwards, head down.  And landed  on the concrete below.
Hit hard.  Was a bit stunned as  I remember. No one saw me.  I got up and continued home but
did  not feel too good.  And there was a  bump on the back of my head.  That bump is still there.
Not sure if the bump was because of the fall or whether everyone has such a bump.

What I remember most about that incident is how stupid I felt. I took an
unnecessary risk and  was  lucky the consequence were not worse.


I am not the greatest athlete in the world.  But football was one sport in which I excelled  in a very small way.
Few people ever notice the way  linemen open holes for the glory boys…half backs, full back, quarter backs.
The linemen do  this by throwing their bodies against the defencemen on the other team.  We had  a marvellous
coach at Humberside, Fred Burford, who knew how each of the 24 players on the field should act…how they
should step, turn, use shoulders or throw  cross body  blocks.  Short choppy steps so legs are
coiled and ready to launch  the body.  Cross  body  blocks were used to take out outside linebackers  mostly.
Nothing mean about the block.  Get close to the opposing player then launch body into the air parallel to the ground,
try to hit him with your hip. Part of the game.  No ill will involved.  Football was a  science to Mr. Burford.
I loved it.  And got qjuite good at the Cross  Body.  Except one day things went a bit awry when I threw a 
Cross Body, took out the Corner Backer but let one hand hit ground splayed out like a bull frogs hand.
The ball carrier or someone ran right over my hand with their football spikes.  Smashed  my little finger..broken in
several places.

My poor little finger!   Sounds like such  a trifling thing…a broken little finger.  But that finger had immense 
consequences to me.  First, was the operation.  Mom and  dad were both working so I travelled  to St. Jospeph’s
hospital by street car one school day.  I was in Grade 13…a big year…a tough year.   Missing a day  of school
was a problem that late October morning but it had to be done.  Now, that is not the truth.  I could have managed
quite well with that broken finger.  Some would say  I should have ignored the medical advice and cancelled the
operation.  Too late when I was on that street car.  Let me put the events that followed  in dialogue form.

“Day surgery, young man, put on this robe.”
(Robe as  we all know is  a misnomer.  Half a robe is a better term.  Bare ass to the wind robe is even better.)
“Now we are going to prep you for the surgery, pull up your sleeve…just going to shave
your arm…clean.”
“Why are you shaving my right arm when the operation is  on my left arm…little finger?”
“Sorry, young man, wrong arm.”
“Big needle!”
“Local  anesthetic…just feel a bit of a  prick.”  That was an understatement with many meanings. Prick?
“There, we’ll wheel you into the hall … wait here until the doctor’s ready.”
(Waited there a long time…too long as  it turned  out.)
“OK, your turn now…operating theatre.
‘What are those people above me doing?”
“Watching…mostly interns…future surgeons.”
(Doctor entered with several attendants)
“OK son, we’ll have you out of here in no time.”
“Just cut here…length of finger”
“When did this boy get the local anesthetic?”
“At 10…”
“Ten?  It’s  now nearly noon…needle  has worn off…quick give 
him another shot.”
The  doctor did his job…cut, cleaned, wired little bones back in place…while I looked up
at the half dozen faces looking down at me from their circle guest seats in the so called theatre.
Not much pain after the second local  cut in.  I could live with it.
“There, slap on the  cast and soon you can go home.  Anyone here to take you home?”
“Nope…mom and dad both working.”
“How will you get home?”
“Street car.”

As I remember there was a  street car line on Roncesvales  back  then…hooked up with the Annette Street bus
and got me home.  The cast was a little bit red at the tip.  Some blood oozing…not much but enough to make
me feel woozy.  Got home and  went to school…maybe for afternoon classes.  Not sure about that.  What I became sure about
was the fact I could no longer take notes…couldn’t write.  Cast on my hand was like a big club with a tiny wire tip sticking out.
The wire held  the broken bones in place.  Eventually it was pulled out cleanly.  Successful operation but my high 
school career was affected.  No ability to make notes.  I am left handed.

I felt OK. Even able to go back and play football.  In one of the games I made a really good below the knees  tackle of the enemy ball carrier…took him
down like a calf in a  rodeo.  Burford even congratulated me.  But looked  at me strangely.   Something was wrong.  A couple of weeks later both
Burford and Griffiths, the football coaches  cornered  me in the second floor hall.  I did not think they even knew I existed.

“Does that cast bother you Alan?”
“not particularly.”
“Does it affect your homework…your note taking…your classes.”
“Not too bad, sirs….no”
(I lied, what else could  I do?  Later, much later, I realized the football coaches were getting flack about football injuries.  I was not
the only boy with a problem.  One of my fellow team players had  taken a fit…convulsions…from a head  injury.   So the coaches were 
worried. Other teachers were questioning the football cult.  My dismissal of the problem must have made them feel a bit better. If they believed  me.

Causation states that for every cause there is an effect.  Bloody obvious, right?   Not quite so simple though.  When I  taught high school
history I amended the principle of causation.  “For every cause there are multiple effects.”  Consequences.   Well, the trivial matter of my
broken finger had  lots of effects some of which I will record…others i will not record because so  many good things happened that recording
them here seems like bragging.   I counted  over 20 consequences  of that broken finger…some negative  but most of  them terrific…so terrific
that I dare not send them to any readers lest they  consider me a big blowhard  like  that asshole  Trump.

What seemed to be a tragedy ended up as one of the best years of my life.  To say much about that year would make me
seem vain in the extreme so I have deleted the  consequences and inserted the Bad Joke below.  Would you do this
to your mother?


Our family lived on the second floor of 455 Annette Street in 1957.  A long staircase went up to our family home of three rooms.  Coming home
from a football game one day Mom was waiting at the top of the stairs to hear from Eric and I about a game that day.

“How was the game, Alan.”
“Eric got hurt.”

And I threw Eric’s helmet on the floor.  Russ Vanstone had inadvertently run over the helmet with his 1956 Chevrolet.  Smashed it all to hell.
Eric, Russ and I thought it would be a good joke on mom.  Now that was not a good idea.  But we were teen agers. the story sort fits this sequence of stories on falling.
Mom did not scream but she did put her hand to her mouth as I remember.  Then Eric popped up the stairs.

Consequences of that broke finger:

Deleted:  If Kevin or Andrew or grandkids want to know I will send an uncensored copy

1)  Pain for a  short time
2)  Could  not write…no school notes  or homework  done
3)  Pressure on final Gr. 13 exams made my mind go blank in physics exam. 
I could not remember what the basic symbol, the letter ’s’ stood for…a critical situation
4) My Gr. 13 average marks  dropped to around 70% which  was not enough for
acceptance into university
5) I  had choice of joining the work force or going back  to high school to improve my marks
I  chose to go back although it was  embarrassing…even felt humiliated
6) Rejoined  the football team and was chosen captain
7) Elected President of Boys  Athletic  Association
8) Got suspended for a week along with Vic and Ted  for taking an afternoon to
spot … look for weakness in an enemy high schools football team. Unsportsmanlike behaviour said VP Mr. Couke and he was correct I agreed.
9) Reconsidered my life decided to use my spare periods as  a chance to read
books  I had never had  time to read  as much before…Eric Fromm, Charles Dickens (all his  novels), John  Steinbeck, Arnold Toynbee, Robert Service,
Luke Short, Loren Eisley (sp?),
Robert Browning, Robert Frost, John Wyndham, Dwight Eisenhaur biography…lots of books…devised a check out notebook listing number
of  pages to be read each half hour…often  exceeded my estimate…had my head  in books for most of that year.
10) Asked  head  of history Evan Cruikshank if I could write the Gr. 13 history exam by  home study…got his permission.  Same
applied  to the Gr. 13 English exam…got permission from Roberta Charlesworth
11)  Made many speeches in auditorium promoting yearbook,  athletics,  school dances, etc.
12)  Had chance to consider my future…university bound  but scared  about it…mom was  a seamstress,
dad was a  tire builder, thus a working class family so university was a novel experience. Was I biting off more than I could chew?
13) was chosen for both football all star teams by Toronto newspaper…Toronto Star, Toronto Telegram
14) was chosen Head Boy for Humberside Collegiate Institute 1958
15) Improved my marks and  was accepted  as a student at Victoria  College, University of Toronto
16) was asked to make the farewell speech for Mr. Les Devitt, math teacher who, during WW! was a test
pilot for Toronto made aircraft.  if he felt a plane to be unworthy he deliberately crash  landed the plane
so no young man would  be endangered in a war combat situation…fact unknown to students until then.
17) Broke up with my steady girl friend…we just went separate ways…which led  to meeting Marjorie Hughes
at Victoria College second  year sock hop.  We had good chemistry…natural…friend for life… became my wife. 
 If I hadn’t broken that little finger we might never have met.  Marjorie had a lot of men to choose from.  I was  
lucky even if undeserving at times.
18) wrote a  play  about our 38th Rover Crew…corny but a lot of fun.

   19) had long talks with Russ Vanstone about just about anything…politics (he was s conservative, I was CCF or Liberal or nothing, Girls, 

  and a lot of talk about football.  Cemented s life long friendship.
 20) Spent time with friend Red Stevenson, we were Rover Scouts … took our joint First Class journey near Van Dorf, a rural community north of Toronto that is
now so totally urban that few can remember the farm barns once so common.


Just a short story here.  I was working alone at the farm one midwinter morning.  Snow had turned to ice  on
the sloping fields and  I slipped.   Anyone who  has fallen knows that once the  fall begins  there is not much
a person can do to stop it.  You  can  roll like a wrestler does but usually the fall is  so fast that little can be done.
That was the case on that winter day in 2010.  My feet slipped forward and I went over backward and my head  struck
the hard ice like a pumpkin hits the trash  bin  after Halloween.  It hurt.  But not that much really.  So I continued
working and did not give too much thought about it until I dropped into the hardware store to get some lumber.

“Can  you take a look at the back of my head?”
“Jesus, you got a big slice there…some blood,..flap of skin and hair…let me 
get our first aid  kit.”
And  the man who handles  lumber bandaged me up until I got home
“Alan,  we’ll need  to see Dr. Bahiya at the Walkin In…you need  stitches.”

And  so  my head  was sewn back  together.  Not really a big deal.   I wondered why there was so little blood for
head wounds are supposed to be bloody.  Later, I went back and thanked the hardware guy.


(We were having a grand time in the South of France…our own farm house for a week…then WHAM!)

Too many pictures here, I know that.   Who takes pictures when someone is injured?.  As fortune would have it, Kevin decided to document the
experience.  Fortunately he was not present when the French nurse said  “en face out non?”

(What was the worst part?  Coming out of the anesthetic. )

“What a  great day…sunshine in the morning makes me  happy as the John Denver song goes.”
“A little early to get up, Alan.”
“Let everyone sleep, I am going for a walk  and take some pictures of that Lavender Field down the road.”
“Breakfast in an  hour.”

We had rented a French farm house about an hour north of Marseilles.  Beautiful area.  Soft sunshine, pastel painted villages,  lavender fields
and even wild pigs.  No  English spoken…really the old France before the descent of English tourists by the busload.

“Dad, it would  be best if you did not try to speak  French…:’
“Because your accent is terrible and  you keep slipping English words into the conversation which confuses everyone.”
“To hell with you.”

So I was alone on my walk and climbed a small hill…rock strewn hill that ended  in a rather steep decline on the other side.
But the lavender field  was stunning.  I got out my pocket camera and  began snapping.  At the same time I was backing up
to get a  better panorama.  Bscked too far…feet stepped on a  whole pile of rounded pebble…like ball bearings to my feet.
Suddenly I was rolling…faster and faster…no control…over the steep cliff face…faster and  faster.  Then WHACK!  I  hit
a tree halfway down the hill…bounced off and continued the fall.  Heard something crack… Had time to think and protect my camera in my clenched
fist…hit a couple of rocks and  then fell about five or six feet to the road  below.  Landed  spread eagled.  

“God-damn-it-all -anyway, must have broken my camera,” That was my first thought when I got my bearings.
“Camera is  fine,”  Unrapped it from my clenched fist.  
“Then why sound of that crack?”
“My wrist…right side…broken.”

I took stock  of myself and the picture was  not good.  Quite a bit of  blood, broken wrist, bruised  legs,  clothes torn.   A car came by  and  swerved  to
avoid me but did not stop.  Maybe I looked like a drunk.   “Got to get back to the farm house…drag myself…cannot faint.”
Slowly made it back…Knocked on the door…why did I knock?  Don’t know.   Morgan, one of granddaughters answered.

“What happened to you Grandpa?:  she screamed
“Need to get to a hospital…fell off a  cliff…broke my wrist…all  bashed  up.”
“Kevin, get the car…must be a hospital around here…a town?”

Found a hospital and was immediately admitted  and wheeled from emergency to a private hospital bed.  “God, this  is going to cost a lot of money,”
ran through my head.  But when hurt money does  not really matter.   A couple of doctors examined my wrist after the brush  burns  were attended to.

“Vous avez besoin d’ operation immédiatement.”
“Ici?…aujourd’hui  ou demain.?”

I said my French  was  only fair, but in this crisis it got worse.  We agreed to have the surgeon operate the next morning.  No  mention of money.
So I spent that night alone in a strange hospital in a foreign country in a nervous state.  Stupidly I  had asked them to put me under…and anesthetic…
for the operation.  Wish that had  never been agreed.  When I  woke up later that day…maybe early afternoon…first person I saw  was Marjorie
sitting on a  chair reading.  But I couldn’t breath.  Had a mask on my face and maybe oxygen was being pumped at me.  But my lungs were out
of  synchronization with the artificial  lung.  Sheer terror.  Made things worse.  I just could  not breathe.  Took a  few minutes for my lungs to take over
  I remember that fear to this day.   Any operations that can be done using local anesthetics are welcome.  Knock-out is not.

I do not know how long I was supposed to stay in the hospital.   Several days I think.  I managed to stay two more nights I think
entertained myself in the dark hours of the night by singing.  Yes,  singing.  My brother says I cannot sing.  But I know better.  My version
of Old  Man River  coursed through the halls.  “Old Man River, he just keeps rolling…keeps on rolling along…”    Not sure but I think one
night I heard  another voice from somewhere nearby also  singing.

Finally, I just walked  out of the hospital.  Paid  my bill earlier.  Guess how much?  No, let me tell you. The cost for everything…hospital bed,
doctors  assessments,  washing, surgery, anesthetic, meals, surgery, nurses…the cost was $2,000. That was all.   Terrific treatment too.

One funny incident  happened while I was recovering.  My body was  badly bruised…black on one side of my body, white on the other.  Like
some medieval  clown.   At some point early on I had to take a leak…had to take it bad.   Indicated such to the nurse and  she
said  four words I cannot forget:  “En face ou non?”   What did that mean?  Ahah…she  is  asking if I need  to face the toilet or
sit down.  If I have to sit down then she will have to help me take a leak.  Yuk!  I responded after a few moment thought, “En face”
I did  not add “s’il vows plait” but got right down to business.  The nurses expression did  not change.  What a relief?  I could take
a leak.  If I could take a leak  then I must be OK.  So, shortly afterward,  I just walked out of the hospital.  Kevin and  the
rest of the family picked me up on the  road.  No, I was not half naked  wearing a hospital gown that made me bare ass  to the
wind.  I had dressed  myself…hurt a bit but did it.

The final  insult came when we were back in England and discovered that Air Canada would not let me fly home until I was
certified  as  air worthy by a  doctor.   I understand why.  Occasionally we  read of a passenger jet having to land in some
distant airport because of a passenger emergency.  The hurts everybody.  So we got a doctor in London who examined  me
gave the green light.  And finally we got home…to my bed…sorry, our bed.   Washroom right beside us where I  do not need
to make the choice of “en face ou non.”

The operation was a success.  Only difficulty was the temporary wires or pins  holding my wrist together were covered
by my skin…had to be cut open to pull the pins weeks later.  Really no big deal.


(Torn Achilles tendon…wheelchair and ‘the plastic boot’…meant Marjorie had more work to do)

We  travelled  first class on British Rail from London to Sheffield. Supposed to be the beginning of a
great family Christmas in England.   Nice  way to start.  Spacious seats, big picture windows,  private table,
a light meal, and a super fast train.

Unfortunately things did  not work out as planned.  Gabriela had purchased a used Volvo from a car
dealer in Sheffield.   Quite a fancy showroom in a converted factory.  Lots of  soaring stairways and great 
architectural  details to make car buyers feel special.  A nice walkway joined the two showrooms
with excellent photos of  the old factory on both walls.  I walked  up the entry curved slope looking
at the pictures.  And then I stepped  off into space. Flying in the air…hurtling for s few seconds. Have you heard of infinite swimming pools that seem
to stretch to the horizon. I expected the gentle curve walkway  would be the same at both ends.  It was  not.
the far end had abrupt steps  downward.   I missed them and stepped off into space.

Fell about five feet down  on to a cement floor.  Twisted  as I  fell.  Ended up almost paralyzed behind  two new cars.  Could not get
up as  my legs would not work.  Grabbed the back  of a car.  No help.  Finally three salesmen found me.  Some  blood from head
and hand cuts but, worse,  legs wouldn’t work right.  Especially left leg…like it was broken.   

“Carry or help me over this  ramp …family over there.”
“Dad,  what happened?”
“Alan, you are hurt…how did it…”
“Didn’t see the steps…thought I was on a ramp…maybe I will get better if I sit down”

Never got better.  Very painful.  Could  not walk.  They bundled me up in the new car and
drove back to London…took about 5 hours.   Then Gabriela phoned the Highgate Private Hospital
who took me  right away.  A very concerned doctor poked and  prodded while I lay  flat on my
face trying to do what he asked.

“Move your toes on right foot:
“There, how is  that?”
“Now move your toes on the left foot…move them.”
“They won’t move.”
“Looks like you have torn your Achilles  tendon.  We won’t know how bad until we take X-Rays and
see the surgeon who happens to be in the building.”

So began a whole bunch of things.  The X Rays  conformed  my tendon was torn badly…80% torn.  Just barely 
holding.  A specialist then fitted me with a huge plastic boot with rubber pockets that could  be hand pumped. 
Kevin phoned and rented me a  wheelchair for I could not walk.   Our joyous Christmas plans were put on hold.

Not all bleak though.  I was  able to drag myself…or, rather, Marjorie was able to drag me to a couple of the Charity stores  
that feature cheap clothes,  various discarded  hard  goods,  and  piles and piles of good  books.  We bought a big
pile of each.  Kevin managed  to wheel me into a pub or two for a local pint of  ale.  

The best thing that happened was the wheelchair.  People do not look at you if you are in a wheelchair.  Other wheelchair
people do look however and greet and share their grief.  I was not alone. It was  a  new kind  of existence. And we turned
it into a bit of fun.  Various entertainers played flutes, sang songs, picked at guitars…most had caps in hand  or on the 
sidewalk for donations.   Now this  gave me an idea.   Why not join them.  So Kevin, Marjorie an Gabriela  parked  me
beside a tall lean man collecting money for Cancer.  I looked  part of the charity.  Put on a solemn face and turned  my
baseball cap into a money pot.   Before my joke turned sour we dumped  the money in the cancer pot and  Kevin  wheeled  me 

Back in Canada I was disappointed to learn that it would take another three months or moe for me to even consider walking
normal.  And for most of that time I  had to wear the accursed boot.  At night, however, it could be loosened and eventually removed.
Sadly I will never be perfect again I fear.  But damn close to perfect.

That bit of bravado got me into deep trouble a year later at the High Park Curling Rink.


My torn Achilles tendon was healing well.  I spent a lot of money doing therapy at $75 a crack during the summer and fall
of 2018.  I wanted to be ready to curl again.   Monica had taken over my skip responsibilities and  she was good but I needed
to take command again just to inflate my ego a little.  No more classy deliveries.  I was using the stick which made curling
look like shuffleboard.  Hot shot curlers make snide remarks of those that use the stick  They believe we are not real curlers.   And
they are right.  Amazing how they change their minds when they get older and  a little stiff in the joints and then have to
use the stick as well.  Humbling experience.  In my case I kept wearing my slider. Slider?  That’s a piece of slippery leather
worn on one foot so a curler can slide down the ice a ways while delivering a rock.  

Mistake I made was continuing to wear my slider on my right foot.  While at the same time I  was recovering from
that torn Achilles tendon on my left foot.  Two feet that were handicapped.  But I managed to get back in the game.
Got over confident as usual. Then one evening I threw a real killer take out rock.  Gave it all I could give.  Too much.
I ripped up in the air…two feet forward  and up…head pointed down.  Then crashed to the ice.  My head hit with such
force that the curlers at the other end of the ice stopped in mid stride.  Fortunately I was wearing a helmet that I got
for a couple of dollars at a farm sale.   That helmet saved my life.  Yes, no overstatement.  Even with the helmet
on I was  a bit stunned.  Hit so hard I cracked the helmet which takes some doing. So there I  was splayed out on 
the ice with helpers trying to help.  “Leave him there.”  “Get him up.” “Is he conscious?”  

They got me to my feet and then called the medics on 911.  “That’s the rule, Alan, if a head hits the ice
we have to call the Paramedics, so just sit here until they come,” said Stephen Low, worried  I  would 
just drive home.   I guess it was a slow night because in no time I had four or five paramedics around me
poking me and asking questions.  The teams came off the ice and  were suddenly quiet…most unusual
for loudmouth curlers.  I think they thought I was dying.  Admittedly I was a  bit confused. Medics do  that
to a person.  

The silence bothered me.  Like being in a  funeral home.  Then I remembered a comment by Mark Twain
commenting on a newspaper article the was wrong.  “It’s OK, everyone, remember that comment by Mark Twain…
‘Rumours of my death have  been  greatly exaggerated.”   I could feel the energy pour back into the room
and  orders for draught beer were back  to normal.

But my adventure was not over.  Stephen and his son  Andrew drove me home after I refused  to
go to the local  hospital because ‘my Dad said people only go there to die’ (which he did himself strange to say).
I will go to our own hospital,…the Trillium in Mississauga.  It was there that the strangest thing happened.
The triage nurse has to decide priorities…i.e. who needs  care fast.  She noted my particulars…birthday, etc…
then she asked:

“And, sir,  what year is this?”
“Must be 1979.”
(It was really 2018)

I do  not know why I said that.  Just a gut answer.  But it was wrong…way wrong.  And the nurse
put a little red  sticky  thing on my admitting bracelet.  That got me a Catscan an hour later.
Came out all clear…fortunately.  I was  impressed all the same.

  I was OK.


I forget when Marjorie put our ski equipment in the dump…somewhere around the year 2000.  She had good
reason to do  so.  She was a better skier than I would ever be as I came to skiing very late in life.  Too many
other things to do…like work for 35 cents an hour rather than ski at $100 a day (guess work).  When I did
ski, however, I did a lot of falling.  My style at best became a modified snow plow.  

Falls?  Lots of them.  Like the time a Smugglers Notch when I got going so fast I could not turn into the woods.
That would be certain death so I sped down the hill.  Not quite all the way down.  My ski tips dipped and over I
went into a cartwheel style.  Lucky no one was around and even luckier, I was unhurt.  Other falls?  At 
Blue Mountain I got ripping down again…too fast to turn or use snowplow.  Came around a pile of stacked  snow 
at the bottom at the same time another guy like me came hurtling on the other side. Face to face, body to bodyl
We collided…yes, face to face…could have kissed each other.  The solid thump of our bodies
 spread the impact.  Neither of us were hurt even though we were locked together like two bull moose
in rutting season.  Then there was my first ski  venture up in North Bay at the Harris ski hills. Alone as  Marjorie
was busy shopping.  “Let me try your old  boyfriends ski hills”  She had dated Sid Harris  for a bit.  Mike Harris,
who became a right wing Premier of Ontario, was  the little brother.   That Harris  ski hill should have
been declared a Ski Hazard.  The lumps on the hills were solid  rocks underneath.  I know because I hit
many of them and  came back to North Bay with the bruises  to prove it.  My stupidest effort at skiing
occurred outside Collingwood at the ski hill north of Blue Mountain.  These were steep hills for expert skiers or for 
those rubber bodied 12 year olds.  On that venture I made a big mistake.  I had one of my skis and one
of Marjorie’s…a long ski and as short ski.  But I had paid my money so figured I would have to bite the
bullet ski lob-sided.  I  did for a few body bashing runs.  Fell a lot that time.  Bottom line I never skied
without a few falls.  Normal for most human beings I think.  Amazing that Marjorie, Kevin, Andrew, 
my brother Eric and his wife Judy are such hot shots skiers.  Eric  still skis at 78 years of age.  Loves it.
In my glory days I think I  asked Eric why he wanted  me along on a ski venture. “For entertainment, Alan, entertainment.”


(Get the idea…see Kevin and Andrew beside our old W6, Dad getting beams ready…now imagine that bean across shoulders as the tractor moves forward…no foot on clutch…could not reach pedal)
(Our old barn had collapsed when we were kids…needed rebuilding)

“Marjorie, let’s build a new barn?  I’ve got the beams from a barn demolition…we can do it?”
“Have you ever built a barn?”
“Learn as I go.”

Well the lesson was a hard one.  Dad and I planted one long post beam that would be the beginning of
the barn.  That was as far as I got. 

“Beam is in the wrong place…pull it down.”

So I moved Old Red, my W6 1953 tractor near the post then tied a rope to the post and began
to drive forward.  pulling down the beam.  It was a long beam firmly planted in a post hole
 and as it came down it fell across
the tractor resting on my shoulders…dead centre.  The pressure was terrible.  Forced my foot
off the clutch so the tractor kept inching forward and the beam exerted more and more pressure.
I was being crushed.  Just below me were the boys…watching.   Andrew and Kevin. They
did not think anything was wrong.  But I was being crushed as the beam pressed harder and
harder.  Thought I was about to die.  

Then a strange thing happened.  Adrenalin kicked in and gave me strength I did not know was
possible.  I squeezed out from under the bean and fell to the ground right where the boys  were
standing.  They thought I was being funny.  Nothing funny about that fall.


We were doing geophysical prospecting on the barren lands of western Alaska.  Near the 
Bering Sea.   A vast land with few people but beneath that land is a gigantic copper
body whose limits we were trying to measure.  To do so Humble Oil, an American oil
company, had contracted two Sikorsky S52 helicopters to get our crew from point to point
on the vast arctic tundra.   We had two ex military pilots one of whom woke us each morning
with his voice on an battery powered bull horn.

“Let’s get Fucking airborne!”

A joyous greeting followed by the thumping and whumping of the helicopter blades as the
huge machines warmed up.  We welcomed the sound.  And after a few weeks we got
comfortable sitting with our feet dangling out of the cargo doors as the helicopter lifted itself
skyward like a giant moose fly.  I got a little too over confident.

One morning just as the helicopter was lifting off the ground I leapt from the
pontoon to the cargo door as I had done many times before.  What I forgot that time
was the reel of heavy base line wire on a pack frame on my back. It weighed about 70 pounds…heavy.
So when I jumped , I missed the cargo door and fell between the pontoon and the door.
Fell straight down to the ground. Not as bad as that sounds….perhaps fell only five or ten feet 
 just as lift off was happening.  Hit the tundra back first since the reel and wire flipped me
over.  Not too much danger landing on tundra in summer time.  Like landing on a twig made
cushion of low plant life , moss and melt water.

My biggest worry was when the pilot noticed and brought the helicopter back down.
He was good…imagine he had done lots of rescues in the heat of battle.  Landed, waited for
me to throw the wire in the cargo door then jump back in.  And we got ‘fucking airborne’ again.

There is no thrill quite like cruising through the air in an S-52 with your feet dangling 
in space as you look down at the earth.  None of us fell from that height.


Falling cannot be stopped once it begins.  Best a person can do is roll with the fall…like a ball…spread the impact around.
That is fine to say but almost impossible to do sometimes.   One of my worst falls happened in our own laneway.
There is a patch of asphalt that is a bit lower than elsewhere.  Water fills the patch.  And in the winter time that 
water freezes into an invisible slab of ice.  There had been a bit of snow falling overnight so the patch of ice
was even less visible.

I remember the airborne part of falling that day.  But not much else.  Knocked myself out for a spell of time.  Not sure how
long but when I awakened I knew i was in trouble.  Dazed.  And some blood.  No glasses anywhere.   I managed to 
get to the front door:

“Marjorie, I am hurt…slipped on the ice…need to go to the hospital…get the car ready.”

And I sat down heavily on the front room couch.  Still a bit dazed.  Instead of the car, Marjorie
called 911 and two burly medics helped me into their ambulance.  

I came around….do not remember any stitches.  

 “Alan, we could not find your glasses until Woody nosed along a trail of blood.  Glasses were a long

  way from where you thought you landed.  Must have dragged yourself.”

 I skirt that patch of ice now.  Avoid it… Like today

when I noticed Marjorie returning from shopping with two big bags.  

“Just a second, I’ll give you a hand.”
“You stay right where you are, Alan, that pach of ice…remember?”
So I did  (Fine husband you are Alan)


“I Would like that cauldron for our movie…the one up there on the third level.”
“Just a second…get the ladder and get it down.”
“There…pull it forward…the ladder is slipping….OWWWWW!”

Now I cannot tell this full story because the results of the ladder moving would upset sensitive readers.
Suffice it to say the ladder moved down about two feet with my body pressed against it.  Two feet below
was an industrial sewing machine with exposed gears and other sharp parts. I hit this point and 
stopped the ladder.   But I was hurt…how bad?   I could not say immediately because the movie
set buyer was down on the floor.  She was young and enthusiastic and totally unaware of the
pain I felt from that short fall.

  Censored:  Use your imagination or speak to me privately

I was going to be OK.   I can say no more,

Still standing…most of the time


(Often our trails were almost invisible…just a blaze mare here and there and then, at foot level, inadvertently sharpened saplings.
Walter Helstein put one of these sharp spikes through his hand.  Nothing could be done to help him. No hospitals could  be reached.)

Nothing funny about falling.   Really no laughing matter so let me apologize for the light remarks by
telling you an experience that happened long ago when I began my work in the bush.  We were
a crew of four dropped by a Beaver float plane in a remote part of the Groundhog River.  No line cutting crew
so we had to cut our own lines with blazing axes.  That part of the Ontario wilderness had a lot
of tag alder and scrub poplars growing.  When blazing a trail we would cut the brush with a 
downward stroke of our blazing axes.  So what?  The tag alders were not cut flush to the
ground . They were slashed. End result is that a sharp spike was left where the slashing happened.
Imagine hundreds of these spike along our trails.  Falling on them was certainly dangerous so
we were cautious.  

Walter Helstein was an older man recruited from a casual labour pool in Timmins or South Porcupine.
He had no bush experience.  And he was not in the best of health anyway.

“Walter, never step on the wet logs that cross our trails…easy to slip and fall…so step
over them.”
“Why dangerous?”
“The Tag alder spikes…fall one of them and it will go through your body like a Japanese jungle
trap in World War II.”

So Walter was warned but he was also unfit for our work.  We knew the danger.
He stepped on top of a moss covered rotten tree that crossed one of our trails.
He slipped and fell.  His right hand was impaled on a tag alder spike. Bad situation. We did

  not know this had happened because Walter was slower thant Bob, Floyd and me.

  We went back and there he was…spiked.

By then it was early September and the unnamed lake where we had our fly camp
was thick with September fog.  No float plane could land even though we put an
SOS kind of call through to Austin Airways in South Porcupine.  

Each night in our tent as the freezing wind blew rain in the tent flap and our tin stove
belched out red hot heat from split birch cordwood…each night Walter’s pain then infection
got worse and worse until by the 7th or 8th day when a plane finally landed, his arm was
swollen badly and he was beyond any attempt at conversation.  He cried for s couple of 

 the nights…not tear type crying…paint crying.  Then even that ceased.

We never heard from Walter again.  Our camp was packed up a week or so later. 
By then Walter was in a hospital somewhere.  Apparently he spent most of the 
year in hospital.  Infection set in and there was danger he would lose his arm.
I do not know what happened in the end.   Rumour had it that lying in a hospital bed was better than trying
to dodge moss covered deadfalls and stiletto pointed alder spikes. There I go again, making
light humour out of dark tragedy.  Sorry Walter if you ever read this.

Falling is no joke.  If I have made light of Falling please read between the lines or,
better still, go back to that first picture of my nose.


alan skeoch
Jan. 2019


Maybe some of the little bits of the 1963 journal will amuse you…had to get it out of my system…This was year 8 of my years
as a field man in the business of  mining exploration…It was also the year of our marriage.  Every cent earned in the Marathon
wilderness between  May and August was spent on the honeymoon…which only lasted four days!!


alan skeoch
Jan. 2019


When the meteor reached our atmosphere at thousands of miles per second it was  like hitting  stone wall.  The friction
set the huge piece of space debris alight.  A speeding ball of fire streaked  across  the sky but there was  
no living thing to see it for it happened  1.8 billion years ago.  Billion?  yes, billion.  A time when the earth was only
4.5 billion years  old  itself.  When the meteor struck the earth a great plume of pulverized rock was  thrown
up into the air making a crater 20 miles wide.  The impact
ruptured  the surrounding rock for many miles, perhaps  hundreds.  Cracks appeared  forming dikes 
that went deep down to the liquid magma of the inner earth and the super heated magma surged up the dikes
and  along the fractures where it cooled eventually forming sparkling deposits of chalcopyrite (copper), silver, 
platinum and gold.

Then 1.8 billion years later we arrived….Bill Gilbey, David Murphy, John Lloyd, Rgoer Nichols and Alan Skeoch

The North shore of Lake Superior is  one most beautiful yet starkly desolate places
in Canada.   Being there in 1963 was like being in a place that time forgot.  A place
that was mostly devoid of human beings.  A place where the vistas bring forth thoughts of
what the world was like before we humans had a chance to manipulate nature.


“Come over here.”
“Among all these boulders, a fellow could break a leg.”
“Did you see that flash across the sky?”
“Nope, sky is clear…sunny day on shore of  Lake Superior.”
“If you were standing here 469 million  years  ago you would have seen it.”
“Seen what?”
“Some huge burning object flash across the sky faster than a rocket.”
“Why talk about something that happened millions  of years  ago?”
“Because that flash may be the reason we are standing here on this bowling ball beach.”
“Get to the point, Alan.”
“It was a meteor…big one…maybe 6 kilometres  wide.”

“Where did it hit?”
“Just south of  where we are standing…a few Kilometres out in the lake…place now called the Slale Islands.”
“I Can’t see anything.”
“Too far out but the islands are there…not many people ever  see those islands…”
“How  come the islands survived the meteor impact?”
“Islands were created by the impact.”
“Wouldn’t a meteor that size blow everything all to hell?”
“Certainly did that…blew a hole 20 km wide…threw up a big crater now buried  deep in Lake Superior.”
“What about the islands?”
“When the meteor blew a hole in the rock then the weight was  removed from the mantle…less weight caused uplift…rock below pushed  up to form the islands.”
“Any evidence…chunks  of the meteor?” 2x” data-file-width=”1728″ data-file-height=”2304″>
Shatter cone, 30 feet tall
found on Slate Islands. Rare.I 
Prook of  impact.

“Not that I have discovered.  But there is a shatter cone, one of the largest in the world…proof of impact…a cone of rock shattered.”
“What has that got to do  with us?”
“Not exactly sure but I have an idea.”
“Idea?  I prefer facts.”
“OK, try this fact on for size. The impact of that meteor strike shook the mantle of the earth for maybe 100 km.  Caused the mantle to crack
in places…deep vertical cracks are called dikes…happened in lots of places…those cracks allowed hot magma from inside the earth to push up.”
“So some of that hot magma contained the minerals we hoop to find with this magnetometer.”
“Geologists think chalcopyrite…copper…was part of the  magma that pushed up those dikes.. might also find silver, platinum and others.”
“How  do we know for sure?”
“no one knows for sure that’s why they hire Huntec  to do exploration…
 minerals, particularly copper,  are magnetic…if we use this magnetometer we can find whether the copper is in the  skies or not.”
“Do you really think that meteor brought up molten copper from the centre of the earth?”
“Could be the reason this area around Marathon is so magnetic…geologists looks for these cracks.”
“Maybe  the meteor was full of copper.”
“Chunks of The meteor?  Maybe, but more likely copper ore came from  magma?”
“Think about Sudbury…a comet hit there 1.8 billion years ago…made a big hole that was filled  with hot magma from inside the earth…lots of
nickel, copper, platinum and gold came up.”
“Did  you say  a comet strike?  What’s the difference between a comet and a meteor?”
“Comet is  composed  of frozen gas  and  dust…not much rock…Scientists  believe the Sudbury comet vaporized on impact.”
“A meteor is made of solid rock then?”
“Yes…but the hole is the same…the cracks  in the earth allows molten rock carrying copper to seep to the surface and  cool.”
“Anything left of the meteor?”
“I don’t know…strange that  no one has dived down there. But evidence of  the meteor must be  around  here…evidence of
platinum seems to infer a meteor strike…millions of years  of  erosion has wiped  out most of the crater rim.”
“You sound like a geologist…or geophysicist…a big shot…do you have credentials?”
“None…just a  history student with an interest in science.”
“A student?  Only a student?”
“Just call me a  dreamer if that makes you feel better.”
“You talk about millions of years as if they were yesterday.”
“We humans have not been thriving on this planet for very long…perhaps  making a  mess of things if we are
responsible for global warming.
“What were repercussion of that meteor?”
“Impact threw  tons  of dust into the atmosphere maybe….could darken the earth so  much that plants  and animals
would die…global winter…dark and cold.  then again the meteor  Might pitch  CO2 in the air and the planet would  become a huge hot house.
Either way was  catastrophic.”
“Only last one  year though.”
“Not true…meteor impact could cause disaster  for thousands of years…even millions. We  could  not survive.”
“Get away…never happen.”
“Wrong.  Mass extinctions  have happened  five times for sure and  maybe we are in the midst of  a sixth extinction…global warming
is not bed of roses…sea level could rise so high that our  coastal cities would have to be abandoned.”
“The earth looks  good to me.”
“Same here…let’s get looking for copper and leave disasters to others.

The Sudbury Basin in Ontario, Canada, is 39 miles long and 19 miles wide - and 9.3 miles deep.


North America was located  in the tropics About the time the Slate Island meteor hit Lake Superior 450 million years ago.
Instead  of a deep  freshwater lake, there was a massive shallow  sea covering much of he land and that
sea was home to a large number of sea creatures whose bodies  are easily found as fossils in the sedimentary
rock of Southern Ontario.  The Niagara Escarpment was the rim of that ancient sea.   The rock on the North
Shore of Lake Superior is different.  Much lava covered the land and where that rock has been eroded away some
of the oldest rock on earth aged between 4.5 billion and 540 million years old — immense swath of time where with many molten
intrusions pushed their way upward.  The route upward  were facilitated Fractures  and dikes  in
the granite of the Canadian Shield.  Some of these
fractures and dikes contain copper, silver, gold,  platinum and other minerals.  At other ancient times long rips occurred as the tectonic plates
pulled apart or jammed  together.  When this happened the lava flows were so large that the climate of the earth was changed, hence some
of the great extinctions of life on the earths surface. The map of the Sudbury basin above
puts this  in picture form.  THREE distinct layers…Precambrian igneous rock, ‘irruptive’ nickel, and topped off with precambrian sedimentary rock  
and volcanic rock.

The surface of the north shore of Lake Superior is largely a long tract of wilderness with a  few company towns here and there. 
For much of the distance on Highway  17 both sides of the road are clothed in the huge boreal forest that covers
so much  of Canada.  A  carpet of green.  The shoreline of Lake Superior is also a  wilderness of water and rock.
At the company town of Marathon the rocky shoreline is  covered in huge smoothly rolled boulders  about the
size of a human head.   And  off shore are a group of islands called  the Slate Islands. It is not hard to imagine
what happened  here millions of years ago when the land was younger.  A large meteor, several perhaps kilometres across
came hurtling to earth from outer space.  The impact was catastrophic.  Not as catastrophic as the larger meteor
which hit the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago and  triggered the mass extinction of dinosaurs  like Tyranosaurus  Rex
and  Iguanadod.  Cataclysms happened here around the same time.  Tears in the crust of the earth allowed  vast 
quantities of lava to pour forth here and elsewhere on the earth many times in our billion year history.  With the
destruction came some good things. The cracks in the earths mantle filled  with minerals here and there.
And it was these minerals…copper, platinum, silver,  iron…that gave me a job in the
summer of  1963.  I  was sent to Marathon, Ontario, in search of a magnetic ore body that had been detected
early in the20th century but never exploited fully.  I was a field man working for Huntec subcontracted
to Anaconda, a company whose fortune was  made and augmented  by the presence of copper
in volcanic nooks and crannies around the world. 


Why would I want to go to Marathon?  Where is the place anyway?”


Why did  I want this job?   I was  getting married late
in that 1963 and needed enough money to finance our honeymoon. 

The Slate Islands are just a  few kilometres offshore from Marathon,
Ontario.  It was here millions  of years ago that a large meteor struck
the earth.  It’s caldera is  not visible for the Lake is  deep and the 
piles of dislodged rock are hidden.  The late Islands are the uplift 
cone of the meteor strike.


“Mom, this could be my last summer in the wilderness… I want to make the most of it.”
“Where  will they send you this year, Alan?”
“Never know until the day  before  departure…remember the Irish  job?…Dr. Paterson  had said  I was  being sent to the  Mexican / USA border/“
“Yes, and I worried about snakes.”

        “And I read a first aid noe  on snake  bites…if bitten cut the place a bit and suck out the blood and venom.  I told Mom there was no real  danger and there wasn’t .  

        I never got to the Mexican border.”

“Then the next day everything  changed  and  I was  on  a  plane to Southern Ireland.”

“This will be our last year in the bush.  How  does Marjorie feel  about it..You’ve left her with all 
the marriage  preparations.”
“She’s not wildly enthusiastic. But accepts things as they are and  we’ll need the money for the  honeymoon.”
“Is that the story you told her?”
“I doubt she  believes  you.  I think she  just knows you have to get the wilderness out of your system this one last time.”

(As things turned out there were still two more summers ‘in the bush’…but Marjorie  joined me on those  venture.  On one job

       she even brought or cat Presque Neige and her sewing machine.  Gave the boys quite a laugh since hungry wolves  howled every

        night and  to make matters worse for Marjorie we had  no  electricity.  She  fitted  in  perfectly though.  But that story is yet to come.)


“Back for another summer, Alan?”
“Where  to this time?”
“North shore of Lake Superior…lots of wilderness for you.”
“Black flies, deer flies, horse flies,  blow  flies…and  Mosquitoes…the usual greeters.”
“Putting you in charge  of the operation this year, Alan.”
“Set up the camp,  conduct the surveys,..”
“Dig the latrine, get the grub, cook the grub, put up the tents, protect the instruments.”
“All that…”
“Who does the interpretation?”
“John Lloyd, a Welsh geophysicist…”
“He’s the brains, right?”
“But never been in the bush.”
“Just two  of us?”
“No.  David Murphy, an Irishman, and Bill Gilbey, a Brit, and Roger Nicholls, a student…five of  you “
“And the linecutters?”
“Already up there setting up the grid…French and  aboriginal bunch.  They know their job.”


          Journal Entries

TO say Marathon was a smelly place is to flatter

the town. It was a vile smelling place.  Hydrogen  
sulphide in the air.  Like living inside a room where
beer drinkers were passing air.   Awful

Tuesday May 21, 1963: “Well, here I go…another  summer.  Drove our 1953 Meteor to office in east Toronto which meant Dad had to take a whole series  of busses  and streetcar to get from
west Toronto to his job a a tire builder in Whitby.  He did  not complain.   Met our crew Bill Gilbey, David Murphy and John Lloyd…a Brit, Irishman and Welshman…hoped these guys  could get along.
Roger Nicholls still in high school.  Bought train tickets and cashed  $4o0 expense check.  Phoned Marjorie in North Bay to say good-bye for a while.  She is not too enthusiastic as we have
barely got engaged and I am  taking off leaving her to make the marriage arrangements.  Marjorie does not really complain since we will need the money to finance out honeymoon after the
August 24 wedding.  Mom and dad drove me to Union station with my single rucksack filled with stuff to last two months.  Socks are the most important items…big thick socks.  Gum rubbers  boils
my feet as water always gets in so dry socks each day are  crucial.  After 7 years in the bush my feet are pock marked like a World  War II battlefield. Our crew have a compartment on the train…a luxury.
We spent two hours in the dining car scarfing down a great roast beef dinner ($3.86) then climbed up into the Scenes Dome and watched the settled  landscape slide into an endless  boreal forest.
We  got off the train in MacTier to stretch  our legs.  Cool up here…even cold.  Some girls in the next compartment offered  to share a  mickey with our crew as they think we are big shot mining guys.
Really we have no idea what we will doing.  Lulled to sleep by the staccato music of  the rails.” 

Wednesday May 22, 1963: “Winter vista all around when we awoke and faced  a blizzard from Sudbury westward.  Waiter lamented “Don’t want no more snow” at breakfast then we climbed into
the Dome to enjoy the snowstorm.   Crossed  my fingers that storm and  snow would  be gone by the time we got our tents erected.  Bunch of British immigrants in the dome with us so Bill Gilbey
had great time socialising.  Bill is really an extroverted kind of guy.  Same age as me.  I think we are going to have a grand summer.  Bit premature comment …said  before we arrived in  Marathon.
The town has a  vile smell that cannot be escaped something to do with the manufacture of cardboard from pulpwood  logs  H2S, Hydrogen Sulphide gas known unpopularily as ‘rotten eggs”.
The smell covers  not only the town but also much of the nearby forest where we will be doing our survey.  I wonder if H2S become H2SO4 once it hits our moist lungs.  Sulphuric  Acid.  Well , we will just have
to put up with it.  No escape.  I fear the acid  air with affect Roger Nicholls who already has a throat and lung problem called  ‘Quinsy’.  Must carry on.  Rented  a  truck for the summer from
K.T. McKaig and then bought a  load  of lumber from Marathon Corporation for our base camp. Drove to Heron Bay, southeast of Marathon, a native community close to our survey site.  Located
our base camp near there on Highway 17.  Wilderness all around.   Made sure the Department of Lands and Forests knew what we were doing.   Unfortunately our gear has not arrived
so we checked in to the Everest Hotel for the night.  Expense money nearly all gone now.  Finally we met Mr. LaMotte who is in charge of our linocutting crew.  Some lines already blazed so we start right away
if our gear ever gets here.”

Building a campsite is a  messy business.   Geophysical  prospecting involves  lots of movement.  Setting up a sleeping tent under a covering 
fly tent is not as easy as it sounds.  This picture was  taken at an  earlier location but gives the general idea os what is required.

Thursday May 23, 1963: “Camping gear still has not arrived so  bought new coking gear and pile of canned  food, Kraft dinners, peanut butter.  The usual stuff.  This town really stinks with that rotten egg
smell.  People seem to accept the smell so we must do  the same. The flies  do not seem to mind the smell at all … seems to make the bloodsucking bastards even worse so used  my credit account with
the company store to stock up on fly sprays. Chose a campsite a few miles outside town beside a little lake where gravel had been scooped out for the Trans Canada Highway. cleared brush and erected first tent, then dug a latrine downwind from the tent a short distance away since using a latrine… always a challenge for the bugs loved a stationary body…easier to draw blood.   In addition Latrines offer more exposed flesh as well.  Need a windy spot with some shelter.  Not such a easy task. Then we dug a meat hole in which we planted a new galvanised garbage can…a substitute for a refrigerator.  We will have to use our noses to check the meat occasionally.  Hard to do because of the goddamn H2S in the air.   Cooked supper — minute steak, rice, mushroom, carrots, peaches and cookies topped off with best coffee I have every boiled (which is not really saying much) . Washed dishes and then crawled into sleeping bags by candlelight.  No cots yet so slept on the ground.   Bill and David hookef up our radio antennae.  Log jam in the river below.  Looks like cold cold nights.  Snow still on the ground in patches.”

May 24, 1963:  Drove west to Pic River to make Latitudinal correction on instrument…could not zero it much less than 200 gammas.  Then explored and mapped logging roads through our designated survey area.  Visited line cutter, Mr. Leblanc, who has cut as far as 104+00 South.  Planned to start survey but truck got bogged down in loose sand…deep as hubs, no way out. Walked all the way to Marathon to get a two truck…hours.  Still no sign of cots and cooking gear.  bought food.  Heard the Anaconda crew were coming this week end.  Our clients.  They have a crew of twelve men and plan to use same  site as ours…this  is not a good idea as we willed time to interpret our results.   I would prefer that  we do this without the Anaconda men looking  over our shoulders.  Nothing against them but interpreting survey results is a very tricky thing best done in isolation.  So we changed our site quickly…surreptitiously  Found a small gravel pit lake about 10 miles from present location and  made our move tonight…long tough job involving two trips with truck…Tent(s) taken down and one pitched in the dark.  Supper at gas station run by Finnish couple.  Hooked up stove and then sacked out.This is the 24th of May … big time holiday in Canada but no holiday for us.  The little devilish black flies air not on holiday it seems from the blood specks on my body.”


Even though the campsite was cold an miserable in tho first few weeks, Bill Gilbey and
David Murphy enjoyed cool bottles of Red Cap Ale.  Alcohol was  not common in our
camp.  This was  a celebration after the tents had been erected.  No cots arrived so  
we were sleeping on the ground and needed  something to sooth our acing backs…hence
the  Red  Cap  ale.


“Has anyone searched for copper around here before us?”
“Lots of people as far back as the 1920’s.  Geologists knew  there was something here…magnetic…likely copper. By the 1940’s thje presence of magnetite
and chalcopyrite was confirmed in various places. Prospector  dug trenches down to the bedrock, bigger outfits used diamond drills to get deep  core samples,
mineral samples were tested.”
“Was there enough copper to make a mine pay for itself?”
“That remains  the big question.”
“What will happen to our magnetometer results?”
“Diamond drills will be  here fast if your guys confirm sites for them.”

page14image987454800 page14image987455072

Saturday  May 25, 1963:  Up early…hard to sleep on ground, wish cots would arrive.  Straightend up camp…our little lake looks nice, really small but deep and clear.  Got some lumber to build tables, racks, maybe a bit of a dock to make it easier to dip water…Drove to job site…did lines 104 South to o-4000 East then 112 South to 0-4000 East.  Checked with linecutters.  Strange thing about working in the bush is that we rarely see other human beings…line cutters are ghosts.  Hot and dry day.  Forests getting tinder dry…must be very careful.  Lucky no one smokes. Back in camp sent letter to Barrie Nichols at Hunting Tech and Exploration Services.  No gear yet.  So will buy what we need in Marathon. Phoned Barrie—all clear to buy what we need. Put up our cook tent and began construction of kitchen cupboards (really just shelves).  Lousy meal cooked by Bill Gilbey…guess he has a cook and maids back in England.  Bill now realising that dirt is part of bush life…”Blimey, I’m going to have a wash!”  Lake water cold as ice. but Bill dove in.  Warm in our tent though. Candlelight but no wine.  Tomorrow the bush  again…routine begins.  Squirrels are mating as are the partridge. Phoned Marjorie from town…nice to hear her voice…always upbeat.

Sunday  May 26, 1963: “Breakfast smells good..  French toast, bacon, juice, coffee, porridge, milk.  David Murphy and I headed into the bush for the day doing lines 144 and 152, East and West, then 160 West.  No water at all…frozen.  Ate snow for lunch…lots of that still around.  Evening supper a failure.  Weiners were mouldy but we ate them all the same.  Plotted our results on graph paper.  “It’s getting chilly around my legs and back…how about some linoleum for the floor…or even a carpet.” comment by Bill Gilbey who was beginning to understand the limitations of bush life.

Monday May 27, 1963: Bill Gilbey keeps us laughing.  “We’re in pretty bad shape when we have to find our pornography in Eaton’s catalogue.”   He was flipping the pages, “Stockings, eh, must be shoes next…heading for the lingerie!” The night was dreadful.  Wind destroyed the cook tent…kept Bill and I up all night.  The stove overturned but no fire started. Late start. Did lines160 and 168 East, 168 and 192 West.  Bill Gilbey is going to work out fine. David Murphy cooked breakfast.  Really hard walking the bush spongy swamp and  then dense stands  of tag alder.  Movement difficult until  we reached  a rock shelf 1500 feet above the shore of Lake Superior.  Stunning view of the vastness of  Lake Superior.  Human presence was totally absent…as if time rolled back a thousand years. Somewhere out there are the Slate islands where a meteor hit the earth in ancient times. A whole bunch of meteors
hit back then with devastating results.   Drove to Marathon in evening and bought box of beer. Nice to get Mail from Marjorie.  Gear finally arrived.  Built table for cook tent.  Evening storm expected…tent billowing dangerously.  Bill Gilbey getting serious about Eaton’s catalogue.  Tore out pin up girls in female underwear.

                                Inside our cook  tent at the Marathon Camp.  I got very handy at building kitchen  cupboards  on our campsites.   Unfortuanntley this
                                cupboard contaiined a lot of food  that a roving bear would find tasty.  If you were a bear what would  you want from our larder.
                                A  real bear eventually showed up and  helped himself.

 The flies do not seem to mind the smell of the place. Flesh sucking bastards even seem hungrier.  So stoked up with fly sprays and creams.  Chose a campsite a few miles outside town beside a little lake where gravel had been scooped out for the Trans Canada Highway. cleared brush and erected first tent, then dug a latrine downwind from the tent a short distance away since using a latrine… always a challenge for the bugs loved a stationary body…easier to draw blood.   In addition Latrines offer more exposed flesh as well.  Need a windy spot with some shelter.  Not such a easy task. Then we dug a meat hole in which we planted a new galvanised garbage can…a substitute for a refrigerator.  We will have to use our noses to check the meat occasionally.  Hard to do because of the goddamn H2S in the air.   Cooked supper — minute steak, rice, mushroom, carrots, peaches and cookies topped off with best coffee I have every boiled (which is not really saying much) . Washed dishes and then crawled into sleeping bags by candlelight.  No cots yet so slept on the ground.   Bill and David hookef up our radio antennae.  Log jam in the river below.  Looks like cold cold nights.  Snow still on the ground in patches.


“Third largest freshwater lake in the world by volume…the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area.  The Ojibwe people were aware of this, naming it’ Ojibwe Gichigami’ …Ojibwe’ Great Sea.  Great indeed.  The Lake covers 31,700 square miles ( 82,103 square kilometres).  Average depth is 483 feet…enough water to cover North and South America to depth of one foot.  Big…gigantic.  

Geologically the north shore of Lake Superior dates back to the origin of our planet.  The North Shore exposes the ancient granite rock. called the Canadian Shield.  540 million years ago the churning magma from the earth’s interior forced its way to the surface bringing with it valuable minerals such as Copper, Iron, silver, gold and Nickel.  Hence the interest in mining exploration in tis part of Northern Ontario.   The mountains born of this volcanic past have been eroded down to the smooth hard surface common to Lake Superior shoreline.   Ten thousand years ago during the Wisconsin glaciation ice covered the area to a depth of 1.25 miles (2 km).  I always find that fact hard to believe…ice over 2 km thick towering above wherever I stand in Ontario.  Mountains ground down and made as smooth as a baby’s bum.  And then, incredibly, the surface of the earth was split creating some of the deepest rifts in the world.  It  is these rifts that have filled with the melted glacier water.   More lava pushed its way up to the surface melting its way through the sedimentary layers left by the ground up mountains….called diabase sills.  Cavities filled with amethyst in some place…semi-precious stone.  When the ice melted in a period of global warming ten thousand years ago, the rift valley filled with water and the land rose once the weight of ice was removed.  A Gap in the rock at Sault Ste. Marie stabilized the lake surface.   This rock was Important to my employers in the summer of 1963 because along with the magma came lots of minerals located in pockets all along the north shore of Lake Superior.  The job was to find those pockets and then get a diamond drill in to confirm the presence of copper. 

When the ice melted, the Plano people moved north with their stone tipped spears to hunt and kill caribou along the shores of the great lake, then even greater than it is today..  They are A mysterious people of whom little is known.  Then came the Shield Archaic people (5,000 to 500 BC) who used bows and arrows, made dugout canoes, traded with other peoples to the south.  Significantly they were miners…first miners of the region…converting raw copper into tools and weapons.  Direct descendent of the current Ojibwe and Cree.  From 500 BC to 500 AD the Laurel people were making fish nets on the Pic River where we were about to do our search for mineral wealth.
Other aboriginal people arrived with snow does, birch bark canoes and domed lodges.

The people First Nations people  lived nearby  Herons Bay and call themselves the Anishinaabe, also called Ojibwe or Chippewa.  They became the dominant people of ‘Great Sea’ forcing others to flee south and west and east  


That comment was the closest I ever got to British upper class ‘holier than thou’ put downs.
Common?  What did that mean?  Seems to infer some kind of inferior status.  Common as opposed to ‘special’.  The division of people into upper class and lower class.  Obviously I was put in the later category.  
This happened long ago when I was sitting around a campfire with a bunch of older Boy Scouts, most of whom I knew well.  One scout was new. a visitor to Canada.  He was very British as he spoke with a kind of nasal huff and puff voice.  I did not make fun of him.  I hardly knew him but for some reason he took a deep dislike of me.  Then, out of the blue, he called me a ‘commoner’ thereby placing him in some kind of elevated class.  What should i do?  Fist fight?  No.  I am not a fighter for I learned long ago that people get hurt fighting.  As a little boy I watched gang fights in Dufferin Park where lead pipes and broken bottles were weapons of choice.  Then I fell on one of those beer bottle shard weapons and still have the leg scars to remind me that violence should be avoided wherever possible.   What should I do?  Fire back some kind of return comment like ‘Fuck you…you mealy mouthed so of a bitch!”  I had picked up these words mostly from my Dad’s advanced lectures in the fine use of language..  What to do?   I did nothing.  Just looked at him with steely eyes.  But I never forgot.  

Then here I was, years later, working with Bill Gilbey, another Brit.  Did he have the same attitude towards colonials…the same view that those born without a silver spoon in their mouths were Commoners.  My grandfather had left England in 1908 to get away from the class system.  “Got sick and tired of tipping my cap to the gentry at Eywood.”  (* footnote 1) Seemed that the The Gilbeys were member of the British upper class according to scuttlebutt at company HQ.  But All I really knew about Bill was that his family name was plastered on Gin bottles in Canadian liquor stores. Who were the Gilbeys?  Should I expect to be called a Commoner in our bush camp outside Marathon?  Could Bill take orders or just give them?  Were we heading for trouble?

Nothing like that happened.  Bill was a most enjoyable guy to work with…he revelled in hard work, cursed the blood sucking flies like the rest of us and, most important, had a wonderful sense of humour.  Best remembered was his comment while leafing through Eaton’s catalogue. “So it has come to this, boys, we are turning to Eaton’s catalogue for our pornography” as he gazed at the advertisements for brassieres and girdles.

The Gilbeys are baronets?  Members of the aristocracy.  Well, not quite.  A baronet is not a member of the ‘peerage’ who are the real blue bloods of the class system.  Baronets come from the great unwashed masses called Commoners.  Elevated if you please.  Walter Gilbey, in 1893, was designated a baronet for one of three reasons.  First, his success in the manufacture and distribution of gin, wine and other hard liquor.  Two, he was a great admirer of horses and wrote many books on the subject of shire horses.  Three, he made jam.  Jam?  he demonstrated that
English estates could grow fruit crops that could be boiled down into damn good jam.  Part of his 900 acre estate was devoted to the jam business.  So he became a baronet either by being recognised as a great businessman or by buying is way into the class…maybe a bit of both.
Before that election the Gilbeys had a stagecoach business.  That ended with the railway boom.
“Maybe we could make money selling cheap wine from South Africa…try to ween locals away from beer.”  They never looked back.  In no time the Gilbeys had 20,000 customers.  Gin making followed.  Success breeds success.  Every time I see friends ordering a glass of red wine instead of a pint of beer, I think of Walter Gilbey.  Most of my friends are Commoners.  Most still drink beer.

The British class system.  The Royals and Peers all belong to the authentic upper class.  They have names for themselves in a fixed order.  A Duke is the highest…then
Earl, Marquess, Viscount, Baron.  In 1996 there were 1198 peers qualified to sit in Briths House of Lords.  No, I do not know if there enough seats for them all.  Some peers had multiple titles.
Up until 1963, the year Bill joined me in Canada, there were a few women peers but none were allowed to sit in the House of Lords.

As mentioned the Gilbeys are Baronets which mean they are not peers…not qualified to sit in the House of Lords.  So just what is a baronet?  A person who has bought or been given a ‘courtesy title’ that allows them be called ‘Sir’ or “Lady” but never “My Lord”.   

Bill Gilbey never once made mention of this so none of us called him Sir.  I think he would have been  offended if we dared do so.  Bill was a commoner just like the rest of us…no better, no worse.  Industrial and marketing skills in the business of making Gin.  Gilbeys Gin can still be found in liquor stores although no Gilbey now involved.  Bill’;s grandfather became a baronet in 1897.  Before that they ran horse driven taxis, a business rendered unprofitable once the iron horses…the railways…criss crossed England.


Our job was not very sophisticated.  We tried to find blips…spikes…anomalies.  We walked up and down straight lines that were cut by linecutters at right angles to a base line that could be a couple of miles long.  As I walked on the line, I stopped at every hundred feet and took a reading
with various geophysical instruments.  Some readings were visual…sone readings were auditory depending the machine.  All readings had numbers which I wrote down in my Field Notebook.
When I rented to camp these readings were plotted on graph paper…sometimes I did this but most of the time a better qualified geophysicist did the plotting.  We were looking for blips…for anomalies that diverted from normal background numbers.  These blips cold indicate the presence of conducting mineralization deep below the ground.  No one really knew what the blip
represented until a diamond drill crew was assigned to the blip.  Diamond drills extricated long drill core…a long piece of cylindrical rock that penetrated the blip.  With luck…whit rare luck…there would be lots of chaco pyrite in the drill core…lots of copper,ore which is a fine conductor of electric or has high magnetic qualities.   Audio Frequency Magnetometers and Electrical resistivity instruments gave the readings.  

The earth is a strange and wonderful piece of rock on the surface but underneath is a molten core that sloshed around and sometimes spews out molten rock from cracks in the earths surface.  This sloshing beneath the earths crust creates the earth’s magnetic field.  Invisible but necessary for all life and living things on the earth.  Without the magnetic field our atmosphere would be stripped away as has happened on Mars.  The sun is both a source of light and life but also a source of solar wind.  Solar wind, if unchecked, would destroy our atmosphere.  That does not happen because out magnetic field extends far into space and deflects most of the solar wind like a car windshield deflects air and rain and snow on the highway.

What creates this magnetic field?  Sloshing around of the molten core of the earth I think.  The Heavy iron core of the earth is sold. The next inner layer is molten lava.  The sloshing of this material aided by the earth’ rotation creates  dynamo effect…an electric magnetic field.North pole and south pole … one positive, one negative.  magnetic pole are somewhat different from the geographic poles.  Magnetic pole move around but that takes thousands of years to do so.  Apparently the poles have even reversed over time which allows 
paleomagnetic archeologists to date rock strata.  Confusing?  You bet.  Much remains mysterious.   Is the magnetosphere around the earth weakening.  Is the movement of the poles accelerating?  The North Pole moved 40 kilometres eastward in 2003.  What does this mean?
Will more cosmic radiation from outer space reach earth and cause havoc for us?  Will more particles in the solar wind also reach earth.  Both of these could strip our atmosphere.  That does not sound good, does it?   But who really knows.?  Not me.

Where did I come in?  How come I found blips?  What could these blips mean?  Well, geophysicists believe some of these blips…they called them anomalies…could indicate pockets of valuable mineralization in the earths crust … could be confirmed by diamond drill cores.
And ‘bingo’, a mine!  

Mystery remains.  An Invisible Electromagnetic force blankets the earth and extends far into space  The core of our earth is a dynamo of heavy metal at the centre and molten magma covered by a thin crust on top     Our oxygen is provided by the plants that coexist with us as long as we can get sunlight.  Sunlight can be lethal if al the solar radiation hits the earth.  Lucky for us the earths magnetic field deflects much of the solar radiation.  And our magnetic field also deflects the potentiallly lethal cosmic rays that come form deep space.  Geophysicists understand these relationships.  

The earth is not one homogenous entity.   Lots of materials can be found in the earths crust…like copper, gold, silver…and iron.   The crust of the earth is a giant stew.   Our job was to find the best parts of the stew using distortions in the earth magnetic field.  What do you like in stew? Carrots? Beef? Onions?  Well my job was to find copper deposits (chalcopyrite).


“Not too far out there in the lake are a bunch of small islands.
“So what?”
“Unusual islands.  About 450 million years  ago a bunch of large meteors peppered north America.  The meteor that hit Lake Superior created a crater that was 20 miles  in diameter (32 km).”
“Meteors  create holes in the earth, not islands…are you sure a big meteor hit out there?”
“yes,  The impact crater has been eroded away for the most part.”
“Shouldn’t there be a big hole?”
“Meteor impact blasts rock with terrific force.   Takes weight off and that triggers  uplift in the centre.”
“You said something about a bunch of  meteors, not just one meteor.”
“Yes, a bunch of them hit the earth…Slate islands, Iowa, Oklahoma and  Wisconsin…impact craters remain.”
“How come we can  see the craters on the moon but cannot see many on the earth.”
“erosion, volcanoes, forests, oceans, plate tectonics…our  earth hides things.”
“How do you know  the meteor hit 450 million years  ago?”
“I  don’t know for sure…some geologists think the impact was even older…say  800 million years  ago.”
“Any evidence?”
“Shatter cones…”
“Shatter cones?”
“Rare things  created by high velocity shock waves  when meteors hit the earth.  The Slate islands  display one of the largest shatter cones in the world.
Proof a  big meteor hit here.”
“Just for curiosities  sake, how old are the regular rock under Lake Superior?”
“About 2.7 billion years  old…some of the most ancient rock  on earth.”
“How old is the earth anyway?”
“About 4.5 billion years old.”
“Is the Slate Island meteor strike important?”
“It is one of the top 25 impact craters  in the world.”
“Can Igoand see it?”
“Not likely…few people ever visit the Slate islands…that’s why the government airlifted a bunch of Woodland Caribou to live there…few people and no wolves.”


1) End of Ordovician period   444 million years ago  — 86% of living things lost
2) Late Devonian,  375 million years ago —  75% of living things lost
     —including Trilobites and other maritime life found in Mississauga fossils
3) End Permian period,  251 million years ago  — 96% of  living things lost 
    —worst of the mass extinctions
4) End  Triassic period,  200 million year ago  — 80% of living things lost
5) End Cretaceous period ,  66 million years ago  — 76% of living things lost
    —includes the Dinosaurs and the Ammonites
    —some mammals survived — from which we have evolved
6) Sixth Extinction … Is it underway?
    —global warming is suspected in most of the mass extinctions 

Does  a doomsday in the past mean we will face a  doomsday  in the present.  

  ‘It ain’t necessarily so’. as  the song says.  About 90% of the asteroids that could threaten
the earth in the next hundred years have been identified.   Could an asteroid heading our way  be deflected or exploded?   There was  a Hollywood film that a team of suicidal astronaughts

      landing on an asteroid for an earth impact.  In the movie the astronauts planned to drill into the asteroid and bury a nuclear bomb.  Well, that is fantasy.  Could  be done but NASA and other space

scientists  suggest an easier way.  Simply have an unmanned rocket push the asteroid a few centimetres  off  course.   It will take a century or more to read earth and by that
time will be on a near miss or  complete miss trajectory.  Yes,  Virginia, we can  protect ourselves
Tuesday May 28, 1963
Bedrock at Neys Provincial  Park…a  few miles offshore are the Slate Islands  where a  large meteor struck the earth some 480 million years ago.
The bedrock in the foreground of the photographed is  about 2.7 billion years old…yes ‘billion’ years old.
TASK:  Use your imagination. A huge meteor is about to strike Lake Superior straight ahead o you.  The sky is alight then comes impact.  Now imagine
that sky after impact….!!!  Why is the earth not pock marked with impact craters like the moon?  Answer: covered by lava, greenery, water, movement of tectonic plates…perhaps.
 How many of the five mass extinctions on earth were caused by meteors?  How many were caused  by rips in the earth’s mantle and outpouring of huge…immense…flows 
of lava?  How many cannot be explained?  Are we in the midst of the sixth extinction as scientists say?   Geophysical prospecting makes a person  think.

Tuesday, May 28, 1963:  Cold and overcast. Set out early for the bush and did lines 192 and 184 East, 184 and 176 West.  Had David Murphy operating the instrument in afternoon.  Emerged on shore of Lake Superior. Stunning.  Like that Group of Seven painting of bare rounded rocks and infinity of steel grey water.  Gathered driftwood for big fire and made billy can of hot tea.  Billy can is a fruit juice tin with a wire top handle. Must have got that name from drifters in the Great Depression.  Who  was ‘Billy”?  No idea.  Tea is easy to make.  If we have no tea we can use the Labrador Tea leaves…a plant with conical leaves that are fuzzy underneath.  David and I discussed the Irish problem…what a mess.  We agreed.  Bill Gilbey prepared a fine supper for us after we got the stove back in working order.  Shaved and then we drove into town to see Steinbeck’s “Wayward Bus” in film form.  Had ice cream at Marathon’s only restaurant.  The stink of the cardboard making plant took some joy away from the ice cream. Tomorrow I’ll do the plotting (looking for blips).  Pope John is in bad shape.   Bill Gilbey announced that “I can’t stand history…dreadful things have happened, best not to read about them.” Odd comment.  We are getting used to his odd comments.  Hilarious  to see him flipping through the women’s underwear section of Eaton’s catalogue. “Look at this boys…a winner for sure but no phone number.”

Wed. May 29, 1963: Delightful rain in morning.  We could all sleep in.  Cooked grub late in morning. Drove to Marathon.  Expense check arrived and a letter form Bill Dunn.  We had worked together in the Yukon where he nearly got knifed by a native girl hw was screwing.  Bill was quite a character.  Some age as me.  Ended up in the Yukon when his friends got him drunk and put him on a plane to Whitehorse the day before his wedding.  He never Looked back. I am not sure if I told Marjorie that story.  She might think the same tragedy could happened.  Not a chance that.  Bill Dunn was enjoyable and loyal in spite of that ‘left her at the alter’ event.  Maybe the girl was lucky for he was not the marrying kind.
My brother Eric graduated from U. of T.  Looks  like we will both be history teachers.  Who could  have predicted that three years ago?   In afternoon I plottred our survey results while Daving and Bill did line 176 East.  Rain lasted until 2 p.m. Steak for supper then visited our client Al Boerner (Anaconda Corporation) in the evening.  He was nice.  We went to the Northern Bar and had pleasant discussion over three beers.  Drunken native Canadians also present. Sad.  One passed out with his eyes and his fly wide open.  Not really funny.  The natives are really nice people when sober and super friendly when  drunk.  I like them.  Drive back to camp where boys were waiting up.  I still have not had time to put my bed together so another night on the ground. Gilbey spoke again: “gosh they make camping look nice…if they only knew what really happens.  Like our tent falling down three times in one night. Sleeping on ground with rock for a pillow. Camping can be torture.”

                     Our line cutters  sometimes  did a terrific  job as in the picture above. They clear cut straight lines  for us and then set out pickets
                     every hundred  feet.  We walked  these lines  and took reading at each  picket.  Sounds  simple.   But most lines were not like tis
                    sometimes  they were just marked by blazes on the trees and  then tag alder pickets rammed  into the ground at the reqired inervals.
                    And  sometimes  the lines ended  abruptly in a steep cliff or a small  lake.

Thursday May 30, 1963: I did not want to get out of bed this morning but did so once breakfast was ready. Bill Gilbey and I went to the property and did lines 144 East and West, then 136 East, 136 West, 128 West.  Very rough going…exhausting.  Kettles (small swamps) all over the East sections. Lots of moose sign.  Puts me in mind of swamps my first year in this business when I  was so thirsty I lay  down and sucked water from a mossy puddle. Closed my eyes.  Water tasted wonderful.  When I opened  my eyes I was startled.  The bottom of the puddle was  full of moose shit…great conical turds.
Put up the 10 x 12 tent,  Got permit for entry into bush from Lands and Forests.  Fire danger is  severe so forests are closed to most people. Wished I was in Toronto as this job has turned out to be very hard.  Al Boerner dropped by in the evening.  We discussed the project.  Very tricky for me as I am not a geophysicist.  Neither was Boehner though so we both looked for blips thinking that might mean something. Coffee and small talk.  i guess when all thing are considered our camp is the best possible ‘of all possible worlds’ as  Voltaire said in his book Candide.

Friday M May 31, 1963:  Spent day drafting and processing our raw results, contouring.  Hot day with rain in evening.  Boys did lines 128 and 120 East.  Did my washing.  Had canned goods supper after a very poor breakfast.  Spent evening writing letters, making my new bed of canvas and a wire contraption, reading The Reason Why plus The Atlantic Magazine. The wood stove keeps us pretty snug now. Al Boehner drove me to Heron Bay at noon.  Expect Brimley on Sunday.  Pope John died this evening which could be the end of the Ecumenical Council. “That’s drag and a half,” said Bill Gilbey who is R.C.  Unsure of his meaning. Expect the Catholic Church will swing to the right now Pope John  is gone.  I think that is  what Bill meant.

Saturday, June 1, 1963: Guess  what ? Pope still alive but failing.  Murphy and Gilbey did lines 104 and 112 East, then 96 and 88 East.  Spend day contouring result of Block 2.  Drove to Marathon for more grub.  Windy…really windy.  Stinks as usual.  

Sunday, June 2, 1963:  Murphy and I did lines 80 and 72 East.  Very hard going.  Steep in places so very hard to move with equipment.  Found many game trails.  Never see the animals but they may be watching us.  Lots of trails weave through forest. Went for a swim in our little lake…cold and bracing.  Saw Music Man in evening.  Thick fog on route home. Found a lizard part way up our tent wall.  Finished reading The Reason Why.

Monday June 3, 1963: Worms in the bacon but we ate it anyway.  Poured boiling water over the rest of the bacon.  That should kill the grubs.  Had lizard, small little thing — smaller than a crocodile, in my sleeping bag last night…not quite as large as a crocodile.  Disconcerting though,  David Murphy and I did lines 104 and 112 East.   Phoned Barrie Nicholls from town.  Disposed of truck at cost of $187.50.  Wrote Barrie and sent him our field notes and expense reports ($227.16 and $235.79)  Eric’s graduation sounds exciting.  Marjorie is going to wedding shower on June 7 which sounds interesting.  Marriage date getting closer, August 24. Barrie sent word that I was to go to Calgary  Thursday and Friday by train.Bill Scott is to relieve me at this end of the project.  Our client, Mr. Brimley, dropped by in the evening.

Tuesday June 4, 1963:  Gilbey and Murphy did lines 64,56 East, 56 West, 64 West, 72 West, 80 West.  Sketch contoured Blocks 2 and 3.  Dug a new latrine.  Heat was ferocious. We all Swam in our little lake when boys got back to camp.  Reading Animal Farm by George Orwell.  Wrote out field reports.   Took evening stroll to the Husky Gas Station down the highway for ice cream.  Police stopped to question us…wondered why we were on foot on the highway.  We are eating well but still think I have lost a full inch roundly waste.  Read an article by Loren Wisely in The Atlantic magazine.

Wed. June 5, 1963: Bad day…really bad day.  Did lines 48 East, 64 East, 48 West, 56 West, 72 West, 80 West.  Then we made the discovery that David Murphy’s pocket knife was affecting the magnetometer by 180 to 280 gammas.  Sinking feeling.  Started to re-do all the lines.  worked late.  Returned to camp for a nervous supper.  I have been trusted to do this job and only hope that $%$^& pocket knife did  not make me a less trustworthy.  Worked on profiles until late in the night.  Manage to distract myself by Considering Tobago for our honeymoon provided I have enough money. All the money I will have earned in three months could be gone in a few days.  I wonder how other couples pay for their honeymoons? Terrific storm at night lit up the night sky.  These storms have an effect on the magnetic field I think. Torrential rain.  Could not sleep.  Lucky we have fly tarpaulins over the tents.  Cook tent wet though. Living in tents during storms is not pleasant as Bill Gilbey noted.

           Seeing wild animals is rare.  They hears us coming and get out of the way.
           This moose could easily fade into the forest cover and not be seen even if
           only 40 or 50 feet away.

  The earth is not flat.  When our straight lines
meet a cliff face like this and a then a river below….taking reading  is  impossible.   



In 1924, Lawren Harris  led the famous Group of Seven  painters to the North Shore of Lake Superior where Harris

painted “Pic Island” an launched the painters  in a direction of images that stressed  the sometimes  hostile landscapes
of the Canadian wilderness.  The Pic River was part of our survey area but we were unaware of the significance
of Pic Island to the history of Canadian  art.  We were aware, however, that a few miles west of Marathon there had  been a huge prisoner of war camp 
during World  War II where high risk Nazis were imprisoned.   

Thursday, June 6, 1963: Got up at 5a.m. and looked over field notes…still worried about David’s knife affecting readings.  Will re trace 96 and 88 East because readings seem odd.  Rain fell until 9 then Bill got up and cooked breakfast.  Did lines 96 East, 88 East and 72 East.  Pouring rain made everything wet, returned to camp with pants soaked and feet boiling in rubber boots. Rain water gets in through holes in the boots then body temperature heats up the  wet socks and the, end result is boiled feet with white pock marked skin that can be peeled. Not a nice experience but after 8 years of this I am accustomed to it. . Expecting Bill Scott to arrive and take over job.  Cannot find air interpretation photographs which we need  badly.   Our location is  pinpointed by aerial magnetometer readings.  Ground crews like us are sent to confirm any anomalies.  if confirmed then a diamond drill crew  is assembled at considerable cost.
McCuaig’s store in Marathon want payment for food on the tab. Reasonable request just hope I have enough cash on hand. Plotted and contoured until 8.30 p.m. when Brimley and Boehner dropped by.  The contours look very nice thank Heaven. I am Glad , however, our camps are separated by ten miles though.  Nice guys but do not want them breathing down my throat every day. Bill Gilbey got 6 leeches on his skin while swimming in our little lake which is just another  aggravation he has discovered in his camping experience. . Do not know what has happened to the I. P. crew (Induced Polarisation).  I need a shave.

                 David  Murphy floating in our little lake.  The blood  sucking leeches do not seem to
                 bother David but maybe he  does not know they a lurking there.  Bill Gilbey pulled
                 six  from his body.  Salt makes  them drop off which  is  better idea.  When pulled
                  off they inject some  kind  of anti-coagulant that prevents the blood  from clotting.

Friday, June 7, 1963:  Rain in morning.  Got lift to town. Picked up mail and magazines then phoned Barrie.  I will not be going to Calgary which was depressing news as I would like to escape the #$%^%$ smell of H2S.  Must be making my spit acidic…spit plus hydrogen sulphide equals sulphuric acid, does it not? Roger Watson and John Lloyd arrived late in the evening.  Discovered I will have to do some recalibrating.  Depressing.  Trying to do the best I can. Gilbey and Murphy did lines 16 East, 8 East…very rough going…rocky cliffs cannot be avoided as we have to do survey in straight lines for the grid.  Late evening discussion about the I.P. unit. Sounds very complicated.  I must find out what ‘induced  polarization’ is all about.  I assume  some  kind of  magnetism is involved.  No library around here to check.    This  Induced Polarization unit puts  me on a steep learning curve.  Marjorie sent word by letter that she might come for a visit.  That will be a shocker for her as life here is primitive to say the least.  But it would be fun. Maybe  we  will have to build a  male and female latrine.  Dr. Paterson once  told about a latrine  outside  a Chibougamau bar in Northern  Quebec.  Simple thing.   One long pole tied to two trees. half the pole had  been debarked…that was the female washroom. The male half of the pole still have the bark shards  and pine gum which sticks  to the ass.   What does this say about men?  About women?
He claims the story is true.

So here is our crew  with  the Induced Polarization (I.P.) unit. This  is the base station unit… Much too large to carry.  Bill Gilbey,  David Murphy, Alan  Skeoch, Roger Nichols, John Lloyd.  We laid our cables  and set

        gournding rods  much like we  did with The Tram system.  Geophysical  prospecting is 50% science and  50% hard  slogging in places few people visit…or want to visit.

Saturday, June 8, 1963: Up earlier this morning.  We laid out I.P. cables and set grounding rods. The I.P. has similarities to the Turam system which we used in Alaska and Southern ireland.  Not as intimidating as I expected. Did shopping in town later.  Steaks grilled over an open fire…and a  box  of chocolate bars. Flies are terrible.  Got stuck on the bloody road.  Deep muddy ruts.  A  Passerby in a half ton truck gave me a beer though.  Nice.

Sunday June 9, 1963:  Day off.  Wrote letters, read Steinbeck.  Then, believe it or not, I began to do lesson plans since I start teaching history at Parkdale C.I. in September.  History teaching is best if mystery is injected…who the hell wants  to listen to a teacher reading a text book.  Best to find some big questions that I cannot answer and  ask for help from students.  Trouble finding those big questions. Best of all today we spent long morning in bed.  Shot the bull with Roger and John who are a great addition to our crew.    John Lloyd cannot seem to shave himself without drawing blood.  I think he must use an electric razor normally.  “Guess what John? No electricity!”  A pleasant day doing nothing remarkable.

Monday , June 10, 1963:  Bad storm late last night.  Tents are in chaos.  Bill Gilbey soaked in his bed…amusing comments.  He revels in this rough life.  Spent day putting camp back together as the storm continued.  Did shopping in town…another tinware stove needed.  Too cold to do much during the day.  Nearly suffocated in the evening as the stove started a fire after John Lloyd and I were asleep.  Terrifying to wake up choking…thought it was fog in tent at first then realised the danger.  Our stoves are called Quebec  Heaters.  Very flimsy  things made of  tin…can get red hot.  Worse thing is  they can fall over unless braced on a flat floor.  Finding a flat floor in the bush is not easy task.  Solution is to put the stove on a piece of plywood.  Guess  what?  Plywood  is flammable.

                  Bill Gilbey assembling a Quebec Heater…cheap and dangerous stove.  Fly net on Bill’s head.  “Camping can  be miserable”

Tuesday, June 11, 1963: Rain continued all day so we got up late to make up for lost sleep after the fire.  Plotted the Magnetometer results.  Roger Nicholls arrived…seems like a nice kid…Barrie’s son.  Bet both Roger and Bill Gilbey had some idea this was a summer camp.  Wet, cold, rotten food sometimes, legions of blood sucking insects, then slogging through virgin forests in search of some kind of rainbow.  Not what they expected I bet. Relieved to have mag results plotted just before client, Jack Corbett, arrived.  John Lloyd, a Welshman, is very comical so we have really rollicking bull shit sessions.

Wed. June 12, 1963:  Bright sunshine at last.  Got out to the property with the I.P. unit right away.  Murphy, Watson, Lloyd and I on the I.P., Gilbey and Nicholls tied in all the base stations and did line 64 West with the mag.  I feel quite exhilarated now that we seem to betting somewhere and the new crew makes the work less onerous.  Must remember that I am a student of history and hot a geophysicist…just an instrument man/chef/camp foreman/qwuartermaster.  That is enough.  Suppose I decided to make this  job permanent.  A permanent field man.  Travel the world and settle down for short periods in the most unlikely and  unpleasant places. Never got sick or should  illness strike just tough it out.  Get the $%^&&& results…the readings.  Great while you’re young and healthy.  Agony when you’re old  and sick.   I learned this lesson on my first job in the quebec wilderness where Dr. Wilson and  I had to portage a rowboat since nothing else was  available.  He told  me about a friend who died in the bush and had his body flown out.  I imagined a Cessna taking off with the side door open and the poor guys legs sticking out after rigorous mortis had set in.  Was  that imagination or did I actually see this?  Sometimes imagination and fact blur together.
We laugh a lot on this job.  Bill still reading and re reading Eaton’s catalogue and finding the lingerie section more and  more exciting.  “Lust,” Alan, “is a terrible thing.”

Thursday June 13, 1963:  Bad day.  I.P. unit not working properly.  Worry moisture has penetrated the console. Lost day of work.  Did manage to take Magnetometer out in the afternoon with John Lloyd…Read line 2 West.  Gilbey and Nicholls also on base line .  Did shopping in town at new store called Shop Easy.  Nice letter form Marjorie describing her wedding shower.  I wonder what her friends  think of the guy she is  about to marry?  “She could  do better, don’t you think?”  Marjorie accepts things as they are.

Friday, June 14, 1963: Bill Gilbey and I tied in Base stations from 48 South to 144 North.  Very rough going.  Feet dead tired by 5.30.  Had more steaks cooked over open fire.  Millions of flies waiting for us at every tree, every swamp, every outcrop…everywhere. In evening we did the calculations and discussed the project with Roger Watson.  Very tired.  David Murphy saw two bears, Bill Gilbey saw a moose, I saw a partridge.

Saturday June 15, 1963: Gilbey and Nicholls did lines 8 East and West, then 40 West.  Lines vary in length due to lakes  …1570 feet, 3700 feet, 1300 feet, 3600 feet.  Then did south section lines 0 West  1944 feet and 40 West at 3400 feet.  Skeoch did profiles for Blocks 1,2 and 3.  Murphy out with the I.P.,Unit.  Amused by Steinbeck’s words, “…am incomparably, incredibly, overwhelmingly glad to be home. I’ve never been so goddamn lonesome in my life.”  I know  what Steinbeck means… Get that feeling now and then.

Sunday, June 16, 1963: Murphy and I on the I.P. unit.   also did profiles.  Gilbey…loop lines 24 West, 24 East, 32 East, 56 west.

Monday, June 17, 1963: Double shift on I.P. 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. then Skeoch and Nicholls 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Did shopping in morning.  Stormy day.  Bad weather common up here.  Change of plans. I will be in charge of magnetometer work and Camp manager.  John Lloyd will take care of the I.P. unit. Machine does not seem  to be working right.  I am much relieved…to much to do.. Enjoyed a late supper and then hit the sack. Stomach ache because I ate too many dill pickles today.

Tuesday, June 18, 1963:  Spent day potting field notes and cooking.  Wrote letters to Marorie, Mom and Uncle Frank.   Gilbey and Nicholls did lines N16 East three times, then N8 East.  All on other side of Three Finger Lake.  Rain in afternoon.   Saw Lolita in the evening, Weird.

Wednesday, June 19, 1963:  Gilbey and I did line N16 West.  Rain all day.  Hard to describe how difficult this kind of work can be when pouring rain….clothes soaked to the skin…rain dripping off our noses.  Try to shield instrument from rain but we carry on.  Barrie Nicholls and Dennis Boyer arrived late in the day.  

Thursday, June 20, 1963:  Drafting blocks 4 and 5 then Murphy, Gilbey and I did line o East (2,000 feet) .  Murphy, Lloyd, Watson and Boyer worked with the I.P. unit.  Roger Nichools very sick with Quinsy…seems to be some kind of ulcerated throat, painful.  Infected throat with pus nodule close to the tonsils apparently.  Very dangerous in the past before Penicillan.   Luckily we had been cautioned about this problem and let Roger sit in camp when pain got really bad…i.e. he could  not speak, painful just to open his mouth.  A very dangerous thing.
Poor kid.  “Is Quinsy dangerous?”  “Quinsy is the medical  name for a type of abscess which develops on one or on both tonsils.  it is an  uncommon condition although it does  affect a small    number of people, usually  teenagers  and young adults and requires medical treatment.  Quinsy can endanger health and even life itself if  untreated.”
Although in pain Roger tried to work.  Bill Gilbey and Roger did lines 48 West (3500 feet), 48 East (8600 feet), 56 East (8200 feet) 56 West (3600 feet)…terrific. Roger Nicholls really ill…throat so painful he cannot speak.  
Roger should be home.  Bush work is unforgiving.

Routine now established…one day follows another as we traversed the mining claim property with the  magnetometer and the I.P. unit. 

  We tried to rotate the cooking tasks which worked fairly well although some of the fellows were better than others.  And we did wash our dishes.  All the same bush life is a dirty business. We try to minimize the fly problem but fail most of the time. Lots of flies in the bush but our camp had fewer problems with those little bastards because we had lots of wind. Wind, however, was a mixed blessing since it jeopardised our tents…sometimes led to collapse.  And the wind made the campsite cold most of the time.   The wind blew in various directions naturally.  When the wind came from Marathon the stink was almost unbearable.

Wed. July 3, 1963:  Boyer and Gilbey fell from a cliff on 192 East.  They were OK but the Mag looks like it is broken. Workable maybe.  Sometimes I wonder which is more important…the men or the magnetometer Now that is as awful thing to say but I worry that I could fall into that trap and  value the magnetometer above everything else.  Above life and  limb.  When the boys reported the fall, my first comment was  “what about the magnetometer””

        Just imagine trying to walk in  a  straight line taking readings every 100 feet and then plotting them on a  grid that has the appearance of a flat surface.  Falling from cliff faces

                happened.   Usually the survey lines ended in places  like this.  No  point in trying to set pickets.

Friday July 5, 1963: Boyer and Gilbey…one of them fell on the magnetometer.  loosened things but seems to be all right..  I was working with the I.P. transmitter.  

Saturday July 5 and Sunday July 7, 1963: We reclaimed the cable from Line N 40 East and West.  Then put down the I.P. cable in Block 6.  Entire crew needed.

Wed. July 10, 1963: Moved operations westward to the Pic River…set up loop for base stations. Began I.P. on block 5 successfully.

Thursday, July 11 and July 12, 1963: Mag from Pic River to Little Pic River. Used Highway 17 from Pic River to the Little Pic River…26.5 miles …

                  The Little Pic River was more  or less the  western  boundary of our investigation and the Pic River was the eastern boundary…again more or less.  We  could access some of our survey lines by canoe.  The banks
of both Little Pic  and  Pic  rivers seemed like untouched wilderness but that was an illusion especially  so on the Little Pic River which flows  into  Neys Provincial Park.  In world War II Neys was a 
Prisoner of War camp for hardened Nazis.   To  keep them  busy they were used to cut timber and  haul the logs to the river where they then floated down  to Lake Superior.   Mud of what we thought was
virgin timber was really second  growth…20 year  old  trees.  This young forest was a lot denser than  an  ancient forest because the tree canopy had not been fully established. As a result there was heavy
underbrush which made our job tough.   Linocutting  was a slow process…normally line cutters do there work well ahead of any  geophysical crews.   On the Marathon job that was not the  case.

                  Early morning on the Little Pic River.   In the late 1940’s Nazi POW’s were escorted here to cut timber and
                  then return to their prisoner barracks  at the mouth of the Little Pic River.  The camps  was the site of a major
                 prison escape all of whom were  eventually recaptured.  Escapees were chewed night and  day by black flies,
                 deer flies, moose flies, mosquitoes, perhaps even ground wasps.  Not pleasant.

Saturday July 13, 1963:  Caught up to linecutters on Blocks 8 and 9 … nothing we could do.

Sunday  July 14, 1963: No work.  A bear visited our camp this morning while we were all present.  Big black bear.  Seemed confident rather than  frightened.   I hope  he is just passing

through.  If not, then we are going to have trouble.


When the  bear arrived  we hoped  and prayed he or she  would not stick around.  Our food was somewhat protected but not enough so 
the bear found  camp life suited her or him just fine.  Not a good  state of affairs.  The bear reached for a hanging salami from outside
the cook tent wall at the same time John Lloyd reached for the  same salami from inside wall.  Not sure if this was entirely true for it
is a memory nearly 60 years old.  The presence of the bear was, however, definitely true.  And tragic in the end.

The black  bear arrived at our camp on Sunday July 14 about mid-morning… seemed non plussed by our presence which was a broad hint that he was not afraid of human beings…in other words he found it easier to get food from us than to scavenge for blueberries.  At first the bear was a novelty…like having a pet dog in camp.  That did not last long.  The bear reached for a salami
hanging in our cook tent at the same time we were having supper one night.  He was outside… unknown to us.  We laughed about it but I was beginning the worry as it seemed my responsibility to ensure the camp was safe.  Somehow we  had  to discourage the bear.  This turned  out to be a very difficult task.  The result was tragic.

“What can be done?”
“Maybe he will wander away on his own.”
“Not bloody likely since we cannot hang our food high in any nearby tree.”
“Maybe scare him off with a gun.”
“We do not have a gun…the company never sends crews into the bush with guns…unwritten policy.”
“Why not?”
“Because it is more likely we would shoot each other.”
“That’s crazy.”
“Not so crazy.  I worked on a job eight years ago in Chibougamau where the crew was rough and a lot ofnasty things happened.  Tensions between the survey crew  and  the linecutting crew were as taut as as a bow string. Linecutter crew hated our crew.  Linecutters were French.  they we’re  overworked and underpaid.  Our Survey crew were mostly Anglos with two very hardened German Immigrants…perhaps Hitler Youth survivors who had seen lots of violence.  To make matters worse our crew played  nasty tricks on each other.  Humiliation kind of tricks like shoving a sharpened pole up Dick Wilson’s ass when  he at the latrine.  Dick stuttered badly.  When  he ran into our cook tent screaming and stuttering that “a bbbbbbbear jjjjust ttttoook a sssssipe at my ass.” everyone laughed.  This was not really funny. I was glad there were no guns on that job.”

“So what about the bear?”
“Any ideas?”
“Why don’t we electrocute him…not kill him, just give him a good shock.”
“We have a motor generator…might work.”
“Need a plan.”
“OK, we know the bear loves chocolate bars…so a case of Oh Henry bars will be the bait.”
“Let’s electrify the garbage can.”
“The garbage can!”
(We had buried a galvanised garbage can deep in the ground and used it as a kind of refrigerator for meat and  spoilables.  Sort of worked although meat still did get mouldy and wormy if we kept it around  too long.)
“We’ll hook the cable to the lid of the garbage can…when the bear lifts  the lid he will complete the loop…when he  lifts the lid we’ll zap him…should scare the shit out of him.”
“How will we know he has lifted the lid?”
“We’ll park the truck facing the garbage can and watch for him…then when he arrives we’ll signal one of us to start the motor generator and just wait for the son of a bitch to lift the lid.”
“He’s not a son of a bitch…I sort of like him.”
(So a bunch of us sat in the truck that night…waiting and watching in the darkness)
“Here he comes. Pass the word…start the generator.”
“He’s reaching for the lid…Now…NOW!”
“Jesus, he got the box of chocolate bars so fast … we were too slow.”
“Maybe the bear is smarter than we are…”
“How did he know the Oh Henry bars were there?”
“Smell…chocolate, bacon, bread, butter. blueberry jam…lots of  nice smells.”

       “This is getting serious…the bear thinks he is part of our crew.  He  is always nearby.”
       “What if he  attacks one of  us?”
       “Unlikely according to what I have heard.”
       “But suppose one of us startles him…he might attack.”
       “What should we do?”
       “One bit of advice is to play dead.  Curl up on the ground and protect your
       vital organs…hands  over  head, knees up to the gut.”
       “Are you joking? Who the hell would do that?”
       “It has happened…but takes lots of guts.”
       “What else?”
       “Make lots of noise.  Bears really do not want to be our friends…noise will scare them off…unless we startle one.”
       “Then what?”
       “Stand your ground…do not run.”
       “Why not?”
       “A bear can outrun you…by  running you act like you are afraid.”
       “Of course  I  would be afraid…I would run.”
       “Bear might come after you…likely not but it is possible, especially if the bear is a female with cubs.  Meeting her puts you in big trouble.”
       “Stand  my ground!  Sounds stupid to me.”
       “That’s the advice.  Stand your ground but do not stare at the bear…eye contact communicates aggression.”
       “What if  that curl up on the ground thing fails?”
      “Then you will have to act.”
       “Doing what?”
       “Yell, scream…pick up rocks  and heave them at him or her…grab a stick…get aggressive…maybe the bear will take off.”
       “Best advice is to make lots of noise as you do your job…bears  will just get out of the way…you may never even see  one.”
       “What about this bear…he is getting super friendly…super dangerous.”
      “Easy enough for us to talk  about.   Hell of a lot different if we  meet a bear.”
       “Done this work for 8 summers now and only had met a bear a couple of times.”
       “One I remember clearly.  I was hiking back  to our  base cap alone to get food from our stash.  I was scared.   Kept hearing branches breaking as  I walked.  I would  stop and sound.
       then walk again…and stop again.  My  imagination got the best of me. I was terrified.  That night I slept alone in our base cam tent.  Full moon that night.  Lit up the canvas. Then a cloud slipped by
       only it was not a cloud.  it was a  bear on the other side of the canvas just strolling by.  Smelling food.  I was petrified, trapped in my own sleeping bag.  I dared  not move…dared not breathe. Then
       the bear moved along and the moonlight lit the canvas.   Being alone in the bush is  not pleasant.  The mind plays  tricks.  That event happened years  ago.  Today I am not even sure there was
       a bear on the other side of the canvas…could  have been a  cloud…could have been a  moose.   If  it was a bear i was in the curled  up fetal position  much like the advice given earlier.”
       “But our bear in this camp is getting way to friendly…we have to do  something.
       “There is a  solution but I hate to use it.”
Our electrified garbage  can  failed.  Our big plan was lots of fun setting up but the bear was faster than we were… got the bars before we could zap him.  Seemed like microseconds.  We decided just to get along with him…tolerate his presence but not get too close to him.  

Toleration did not work.  Deep in the wee hours of the night I got up and slipped out of our tent to take a leak.  Nothing remarkable about that.  Bright moonlight and no sign of the bear.  Danger was not from the bear.  Danger came from John Lloyd.  He awoke suddenly and saw my shadow coming back into the tent. He thought I was the bear and reached for his blazing axe as a defence.  Lucky he swore…allowed me to swear back and he dropped the axe.  This bear business was getting dangerous.

I still feel guilty about my next step but I felt responsible for the crew.  Some of the fellows did not feel the bear was dangerous.  We were getting too close to him.  He was getting too close to us.
What to do?  Only one course of action seemed possible so I called in th local Lands and Forest ranger with his gun. 

“Could you just scare him away…not shoot him?”
“No.  Garbage bears like him become a nuisance and then they become dangerous.”
“Does he have to be killed?”
“That’s why you called me.”
“What is the plan?”
“Get all the crew behind my rifle and we will wait for him to appear. Make sure no one
is in front of the gun.  He will come as he seems to have done every day.”
“There he is.”
“Quiet…until he is out in the open.”
“Careful aim, want to get him with one shot…easy, Easy, Easy…NOW!”
And the Ranger fired…the bear dropped to the ground…mortally wounded  but not dead.


“Not for long…he’s dying.”
“What do we do now?”
“Dig a hole and bury him…better still,  I’ll send in a machine for the hole.”

None of us felt good about that day.  I felt really felt bad since it was my call.  The crying that bear still bothers me some nights.  Easy to justify, I suppose, especially if the bear had harmed one of the crew.  But he didn’t do any damage except for the back of the cook tent wall reaching to get a salami ..  hardly worth the taking of a life, right?  So what if he ae 24 Jersey Milk chocolate bars wrapping and all? Save us a dentist  bill.

  In 1963, Hunting Technical and Exploration Service…later called Huntec…was contracted  to Anaconda to systematically survey  the area looking for Diamond  Drill sites.  173 sites  were
identified 10 miles north of Marathon at Two Duck  Lake and  diamond drilling   began.  Eventually 36,531 metres  of  drill core was extracted.  The presence of copper and other minerals was then confirmed in 
bands ranging from  4 metres to 100 metres thick .  Problem:  Anaconda suspended activity because
the price of copper was too low  to justify setting up a  mine.  Then the site was sold to other companies…Fleck in 1985, Geomaquae in 2000, Marathon PGM Corp. in 2003, then Stilwater in 2010. 
None of these ventures could justify a mine.  Stillwater came close planning a  mill that would hammer out 22,000 tonnes of ore per day for an estimated 11.5years with a work force of 400 people.
the town of  Marathon would need to be expanded.  By 2010 the cardboard factory was no longer economic having consumed and ground up much of the surrounding softwood forest.
 Not far away, southeast of Marathon, the huge Hemlo gold mine had been discovered a mine site established.  In 2017, Stillwater estimated there were (are) 730 million lbs. of copper beneath the ground
of the Marathon site which would require the removal and crushing and  flotation extraction system  of  151.7 million tonnes  of  rock…graded at 0.22% copper. Not enough for the mine to be 
profitable yet.


Monday July 15, 1963:  Barrie Nicholls called and said I was to head for the Batchawana River on next Monday…alone…there would be a new crew waiting for me there.  Short Mag job for Tribag Copper Mine…they want

                see how extensive are their reserves.  So far they have extracted 9,250,521 lbs of copper from 258,113 tonnes  of rock grading at 1.67% copper per tonne.

Monday, July 22, 1963: Left Marathon base camp in morning heading south for Sault Ste. Marie area.  Batchawana Bay has suddenly become a hot mining survey area.  The Tribag Mine already has 40 men underground getting something or other of value….copper? Silver?… Other mining companies were interested.  Our client  needed surface confirmation to pin point setting up Diamond Drilling rigs.  Or to sell mining stock to  the greedy
 It was a Long rather luxurious drive in summer sunshine so I took my time stopping for a swim a couple of times where a lake looked enticing.  Lots of summer traffic on Highway 17.  Driving even got dangerous as I felt sleepy.   Had to blink my eyes often…dangerous so diving in nameless lakes and swamps helped to keep me awake.  Stopped at Wawa to buy Eskimo (Inuit) soapstone carvings for Marjorie and mom at the Hudson’s Bay Store.  Distance  between  Marathon and Salt St e Marie is 255 miles …should take about 5 hours teady driving but I will take my time….no rush as meeting with new clients  isn’t until Tuesday July 23.

Arrived at Sault Ste. Marie and booked into Windsor Hotel for night then went to see ” The Longest Day.” in local theatre.  

Tuesday, July 23, 1963: Since I had  few hours to kill, I drove across border to the U.S. and did some shopping…12 paris socks, 10 pair underwear, pair of pants, a new shirt.  Prices lower.  Figured I better

                      have look more respectable as Marjorie was  planning to drive north to get me back  to Toronto around  August 15.

Then Met Dodds and Foster at CPR station and we drove back north to Bachawana Inn where our new client, Mr. Walker, was waiting.  Got instrument checked out and ready.  Took swim in the shallow Bachawana Bay…waded out a long way before water gets deep. Lots of tourists and locals swimming.  But that did not prevent a tragedy…Big crowd gathered on the beach where a child had drowned.  

Wed. July 24, 1963:  Dodds, Foster and I drove inland to our project site and set up camp.  Met Paul Marin who had already cut 10 miles of line, 4 of which were chained with 100’ picket intervals.  Later in afternoon we swam in the Bachawana River waterfall…smooth rocky waterfall that made body surfing easy…about a 15 foot drop.   Incredibly beautiful and unspoiled waterfall almost hidden along the old mining road.

The Batchawana River tumbles its way to Lake Superior.  Beautiful to see. The rocks chutes
have been worn down to nice smooth surface so we slid from pool to pool bare bottomed.
Later I took Marjorie here and we  did the same…only we wore bathing suits. Swimming
here was a kind  of Paradise.

The Tribag Copper Mine was in full production in 1963 with 80 miners blasting and crushing
copper and silver bearing ore.  I never saw the mine since our survey job involved work on
mining claims  some distant from the mine.  135 claims had been staked.  The site of
the Tribag Mine is accessible to tourists today…open shafts and ruined  buildings.

Look closely  Roof bolts  hang from the ceiling. Manyno longer provide support.  The more of these that loosen the more unstable
the more dangerous  the ghost mine becomes.  


The Tribag mine yielded 9,250,521 pounds of copper recovered  from 258,113 tonnes of ore.   Let me restate
that in general terms.  Nearly 10 million pounds  of copper extricated from over five million pounds of  rock.
Less than 2% copper…98% waste rock with a little silver.  When the mine closed it was estimated that
689,522 tonnes of  ore remained underground but the percentage of copper was  1.67% which made it

Thursday July 25, 1963: Perused the Magnetometer Survey drawn by Tribag Mine company in a year ago in 1962.  I guess we are here to confirm the results before diamond drill sites are chosen.
We used both mags on Base Line 7000 and B.L. 7200…2400 feet and 1400 feet.  High  grade copper wire found  in 1959

Then we did a loop on the New Senator Property…lines 0, 12, 24.

Friday, July 26, 1963:  Full Day in bush…
0 North -2,650 feet
0 South – 1500 feet
4 North – 2600 feet
4 South- 2600 feet
8 South – 2700 feet
12 South – 2700 feet

Saturday, July 27, 1963:  We caught up to the linecutters today after finishing lines 12 North and 8 North (2600 and 2620 feet.  Good chance to check calibration of both mags on neutral ground at 25’ intervals for 350 feet.  

Sunday, July 28, 1963: Dodds, Foster and I did full day in bush
24 North -2400 feet
24 South – 2400 feet
28 North -2500 feet
28 south – 2800 feet
16 North – 2600 feet
16 South – 2800 feet
20 North – 2545 feet
20 South – 2700 feet

Monday, July 29, 1963: We caught up to the linecutters again.  Some lines were cut but not chained and picketed so no use doing any work with Mags.  In the afternoon we ran a loop on the Tribal Mine claims to check Altimeter Base stations using N3 as base.   

                 The Tribag mine operated  from 1965 to 1972.   The ruins of the mine attract adventure tourists  regularly.

Tuesday, July 30, 1963: Full day…long day to finish survey
8 South – 1000 feet
East 6 South – 1000 feet
         7 South – 1000 feet
         5 South-  1000 feet
         4 South – 1000 feet
         3 South – 1000 feet
         2 South – 1000 feet
         1 South-  1000 feet
         0 South- 1000 feet
West 1 South – 1000 feet
         2 South – 1000 feet
         3 South – 1000 feet
East 7 North – 500 feet
        8 North – 600 feet
        6 North – 500 feet
        5 North – 500 feet
        4 North – 450 feet
        3 North – 400 feet
        2 North – 350 feet
        1 North – 400 feet
        0 North – 1000 feet
West  1 North 1000 feet
           2 North -1000 feet

Wednesday July 31, 1963:  Rain all day.  Phoned Toronto with results.  “Send us the numbers, Alan…the numbers”  Setting up drill holes…  Not my job…bigger authorities doing this but based on our numbers.  

Thursday August 1, 1963:  Did Altimeter calculations.  Plotted results and then did contouring.
Job is finished from my end.   Farewell to Dodds and Foster. heading back to Marathon…long drive in bad weather. Just stopped for one swim.
Mining is a messy business.  Dangerous on all fronts really.  The walls could collapse and crush the miners and often that happens.  Water could suddenly burst into the mine and drown miners just as it did the horses in the Alaskan mine described in the Yukon adventure.  The air is often, perhaps always filled with tiny shards of shattered rock leading to miners lung which is often deadly.  Explosives, rock drills, loaded mine carts, huge crushers, precipices underground, lifts that break, ladders with missing rungs as in the Irish Knockmahon mine described earlier.  
Fist fights, drunkenness, whoring diseases, gambling, poverty…enough?  

  Mines go bankrupt.  Owners walk away and leave desolation behind.
They do not clean up the mess.  The Yukon minesites described earlier are a good example as they leach arsenic, cadmium and zinc into the groundwater of the surrounding region.  Who cleans up a mine site?  Sometimes the cleaning occurs, I imagine.  Government laws insist on that.  The trouble is that mines go bankrupt.  Then who does the work?  Who pays for it?

                  Tribag Mine picture taken looking back  at the  entrance.  What are those things
                   on the top?  Roof bolts that are supposed to prevent the roof of the mine from 
                   collapse.  In time the roof bolts fail.

In 1963, when Dodds, Foster and i did our magnetometer survey, the Tribag Mine was in full operation.  Work had been done in the early 1950’s.  But after our survey and perhaps aided by our survey the mine was expanded.  I cannot say for sure for I was never told who hired us to  do the survey.  Diamond drill holes on the rock had confirmed the presence of magnetite and chalcopyrite and a whole host other minerals in the Breccia (pieces of broken rock cemented together by some ancient volcanic force.  
Hard rock miners hammered and blasted their way down 1200 feet and extricated a huge payload from these mineralised faults of breccia.  They dumped the waste rock and the slurry of poison in a settling pond or rock pile.  About 2% of the ore was copper…enough t justify the mine.  They stopped at the 1200 foot level when the price of extricating the ore became unprofitable.  More ore is sitting there deeper down.  Now that the price of copper has sky-rocketed there is renewed interest in the Bachawana area (2017).  
But what happened to all the Tribag mine buildings, the head frames, the diamond drill cores, the crusher, the slag heap, the settling pond?   Not much.  The wreckage is still there strewn around Mine Lake and Nicolet Township.  Visible form the air.  A site to explore by adventurers.  One wilderness promoting company even plans camping trips to the old Tribag site.  Some intrepid
explorers can even enter the old shafts and adits if they want.  The gate to discourage such risky endeavours is shattered.

When we we’re doing our magnetometer survey we did damage the wilderness. If we found enough copper then what would happen to Bachawana Falls? We might be the last persons to slide over those smooth rocks NS body surf down the spillway. Resolved that when  Marjorie came to get me we would stop in Bachawan Bay and sample the thrill of the waterfall that I feared was about to be destroyed.  As things turned out the Bachawana waterfall remains untouched.



alan skeoch
January 2019

Our wedding began in that bush camp near MarathonOntario.    On August 24 we  were to be married
and all my income that summer was put into the honeymoon.


Here are the fellows in my Marathon crew as they await the arrival of Marjorie, mom and Marjorie’s guardian Phyllis Morgan.   
Marjorie had to hire a Marathon taxi to find our bush  camp.  Taxi driver, then Roger Nicholls, David  Murphy, John Lloyd and Bill Gilbey.
They wanted to come to the wedding as  well.

August 15, 1963:
Three women pulled into our gravel pit campground today.  Marjorie, mom and Marjorie’s guardian Phyllis Morgan all arrived in a flurry of welcomes from the guys in camp.

“How about a cup of coffee in the cook tent ladies?”
“Will we be glad to get Alan the  hell out of this camp, so glad you have come.”
“We got together and bought a card table as a wedding present.”
“Alan said you were worried he would  stay doing the survey past the wedding.”
“Couldn’t you find a better fiancé, Marjorie, or are the pickings really lean in Toronto.“He needs a  shave and a bath…wearing the same clothes for more thant three months.”
     “Run while you have a chance Marjorie.”
     “Marry me…marry any of us…take your choice…cannot be any worse that Alan.”
etc. etc.  Nice remarks…lots of laughter.

We drove  south all the way to Bachawana Bay.    
Quite a change to be travelling with three women.  A little disconcerting at times.   Marjorie’s aunt
was very glad to do he driving.  Phyllis liked to look at
people when she was driving.  When we talked  she looked  at me.  The 
problem was that my seat was in the back of the car and Phyllis was driving.  Looking at me she took her eyes  off the
highway for long stretches  of time but kept her foot on the accelerator.  I was a nervous wreck by the time we reached
The  Bachawana River spills down to Lake Superior over a number of waterfalls.
This  picture is closest to the one I remember.  Looks  more danerous than it
actually was  for we tumbled with the river in late august when water level was
lower.  The bottom spillway in the picture is most like the one we experienced
only the pool below was clear of rocks and nice and  deep

“Marjorie, let’s go for a swim”
“The beach here looks wonderful…sandy and huge.”
“No, I think you would  like the Bachawana River…I’d like to show you a waterfall swimming hole
discovered when we were doing the survey a few weeks ago.”
“Alan,  it’s beautiful…like something out of the movie South Pacific.”
“No palm trees”
“But the waterfall is like a giant water slide as  in the movie.:’
“Must get you a  bikini…get rid  of that full body bating suit.”
“Just bought it for our honeymoon”
“Who needs a  bathing suit on a  honeymoon…let’s try nude swimming.”

I can’t remember if we actually did this…but I have an idea we did. I do remember
sliding down the smooth granite with white water pushing us forward until we were 
launched into the deep  pool at the base of the waterfall…really more a water Chute.
Marjorie loved it.  Maybe it was then she got the idea that she might even like living
in the bush with a mining survey crew.  The following summer she did just that…she
joined our crew in the summer of1964

Honeymoons can be a bit of a disaster.  Or so I read in a couple of novels.  I hoped ours would go OK but remained a bit nervous.  I thought our first night together
was  going to be important.  No kidding! 


alan  skeoch

January 2018

High Park … Jan. 17, 2019 PART OF OUR LIVES


(Thanks to Carl Kirk and the Roncesvales 50’, 60’s 70’s Crowd, Jan.  17, 2019)
also Thanks to the Parkdale / High Park Rotary Club for Memory boards)

alan skeoch

Below are a whole  series of memories centred around High  Park.   If  you decide to read  them
I hope you will see them as a kind of series of diary entries.  For those of you familiar with West
Toronto, I am sure you have your own memories.  The memories serve to show just how
important public parks are in the lives of citizens young and  old.


“Run. Alan, run like  a son of a bitch”
“I am dad…I am. What about Eric?”
“I got him…you keep  running before these goddamn pigs get us.”
“Running, dad…”
“Why the hell didn’t they tend  the goddamn fences…how did
the pigs get loose?  Get back you little bastards, back…back…Back…or 
I’ll kick your goddamn heads  from  here to kingdom come.”

And so we ran.  Dad, carrying Eric.  Dad stopped a couple 
of  tames to kick at the lead pig and,  of course,  to swear.  When dad swore
there was  a  kind  of poetry to it….musical.  I remember that so well.  Picked
up some of the words myself.

That happened in  1945 at the High Park Zoo in Toronto.  Likely the war years
had made maintenance difficult.  Pigs are good diggers.  Used in France to
find those cherished mushrooms…dig, grub around with their snouts.  Now these
were  peccaries…sort of  small wild  pigs with tusks.  And  I am not sure they
were chasing us as  much  as  trying to escape the confines of the zoo.

John Howard’s cannon is still in place facing south theoretically as a part of the defence  of Canada in case of an American invasion.
Eric and  I crawled over it while mom took this picture.  Dad  joined  us in the second shot.  Perhaps taken around  1945.  Might even be 
the same day the pigs attacked us  but I doubt that since Mom was not along that pig attack day.

That was  over 70  years ago but seems like yesterday.

Today, January 17, 2019, Marjorie took me to the High Park pavilion for soup and  
coffee and  the good fellowship of the Roncesvales 50’S, 60’S, 70’S Crowd…a group of  retired
people wedded to Roncesvales Avenue on east side of High Park.

Pictures on the restaurant wall brought back  a lot of  memories.

This is all that’s left of the Peccary (wild pig) enclosure.  The animals in the High Park Zoo in 1945
are long gone.   There once were a pair of Long horned cattle, perhaps descendents of the cattle owned by John Howard
…and other animals…camels for instance.  Today there are Yaks, Buffaloes, Reindeer, peacocks and  those famous little
capybaras.  Not as many animals but enough to make the High Park Zoo unusual.

Likely the most currently famous animals at the High Park Zoo are these capybaras, two of whom escaped  last year and  spent several  months
living among the Raccoons, Skunks and coyotes in absolute freedom within the boundaries of High Park.    They were eventually captured  and
seem  to spend the winters in more luxurious  quarters somewhere.


“Hey Marjorie, here are a bunch of pictures of Minnies”
“The Mineral Baths…swimming pools on north side of High Park”
“Did you swim there?”
“Lots of times, that’s where I got my first ride in a police squad car.”
“Sort of.  I suggested to Eric that the keys  to the lockers were all
the same keys.  Then tried to test my key in the locker next to me.
One of the lifeguards  saw me and called the police.  What could
i say?  Who would believe me?  So  the cop  came and gave me
a heavy lecture then said he would take me home in his cruiser.
I did  not want that but had no choice.  As  we got close to our house
I noticed Grandma sitting on the verandah….
“Officer could you not drop me here, my Grandmother would be 
“What did  the policeman do?”
“Drove around the corner, let me out and said: ‘Son, don’t do that ever again.”
“Don’t ever say the police have no hearts.”


“See that little kid down there with his sled.  He’s standing on  the old toboggan  run…zip right down to Grenadier pond at lightning speed”
“Is that where your dad got smashed up…broken rib cage?”
“yep…right where that little kid is standing.  Eric  and  I got new steel runner sleigh for Christmas in 1944.”

“OK, boys, Let me test the sleigh first.  You wait for me at the top of the hill.”
Eric and  I  waited  and waited but dad never  returned…half an hour later we slid
our way down the hill and  found  him in the centre of  a crowd  wrapped around  the
trunk of a tree with his ribs broken.  His ribs did  not bother us as  much as the total
demolition of the brand  new sleigh.”

“Marjorie, look at the warning here at the top of the hill”
“Almost as  if they park rangers remembered your dad smashed ribs.”
“and  the broken sleigh…it was brand  new…painted….slick metal runners”
“Think about your dad’s broken ribs.”
“That too…”

THE RONCESVALES 50’s, 60’s, 70’s CROWD

“Alan, this Roncesvales bunch sound really interesting.”
“Who are they?”
“A diverse collection of individuals  who cherish Roncesvales Avenue and High Park…”
“Not a  sports team or a religious organization or High school alumni or doctors or  lawyers?”
“Not at all…just a bunch of people with cherished memories of High Park.”

Above left is Carl Kirk, the proud  organizer of the group.  He is a Western Tech grad.  As organizer he named the group ‘The Roncesvales  50;s, 60’s, and 70’s Group’
And when they meet Carl goes table to table with his wife making sure that each member is made to feel welcome in the High Park Pavillion.  

You might be amused  by the article being read  by a member on the left.  She is not admiring the Sunshine girl but looking with interest or scepticism at
an article found in the home of Marilyn and Gerry Holmes.   The article startled me.  See below.

Marjorie in the red sweater making everyone have a good time sharing outlandish memories

This is  Lucy Petriv on the left…one of my first students as a history teacher at Parkdale Collegiate Institute. 
Funny thing about teaching is that students never seem to age.  I remember Lucy as a keen student, a bit 
shy, when she first came to Parkdale.  And I think she was in the Grace 9 or 10 class on the day  
President John Kennedy  was  shot.  That was the kind  of  event impossible to wipe from my memory.
I remember the class, the place — a portable Classroom on west side of  Close Avenue with classroom 
door opening close to a  towering elm tree.  The class expected me to do  something but I was  just
as  numbed  by the assassination as they were.

Marilyn and Gerry Holmes found this  old newspaper clipping  in  their attic.  Gerry is President of the Parkdale Collegiate Alumni Association.   Both are members
of the Roncesvales  50’s, 60’s  sand 70’s Group.  They were both part of my support group when at war with Hydro One.  Not sure why the Holmes kept the clipping
perhaps  because of the Sunshine Girl on the  back side.  Most likely, however, was because they supported me in my fight with Hydro One.  I  got a  lot of 
support from Parkdale people, particularly ex student Glen Coady who knew how to fight the big guys.


About a decade ago I got into a scrap  with Hydro One over money.   The company took $12,000 out of  my bank account with CIBC — got it after two or three attempts.
I don’t know why my bank did  not inform me and  allowed HyrdrO One to take the money but the bank did.  One day  my bank balance was good — the next day
it was empty.  I thought it was a  bank  error.  “No, sir, Hydro One took the money as  a  payment.”  Why $12,000?   Hydroi One claimed I owed  them that money
for the use of electricity on our family farm.   I had  paid every bill — automatically withdrawn from my account.  Naturally I  was incensed and  wanted  my money back.
Hydro One refused  arguing the meter reading which they had not read for years and years entitled them to the money.   After neglect for years they finally did  a reading.  
That was their argument.  I was  made to
appear like some kind of  crook,  I had  all my back bills.  They had no documents arguing it “would  cost to much money to get records from the Iron Mountain’ whatever
that meant.  The fight went on for weeks and became a  public relations embarrassment to Hydro One.  I wanted my money  back.  Felt I had been  robbed.
To quell the uproar an executive from Hydro One eventually called  me.
“How  do  I know who you are?  I am going to check  you out and call you back”
“Hello, checked you out.  You are a vice president with Hydro One and  probably want a meeting.
Well I  am not coming down  to your goddamned lawyer infested  office with its  credenza, marble fittings and mahogany desk… with private secretary.   If we are going to meet, we’ll do so
on my terms just like Gary Cooper did in the film High Noon.  Meet you  at Loblaws coffee shop down near the Ferry Docks.  Alone.  Do  not bring lawyers.”
And  so  we met and an arrangement was made.  A verbal arrangement.  No lawyers. A hand  shake.  I did not win completely but did  get my $12,000 back
which was  needed for a planned trip to see our son and family in England.   I agreed that the meter reading at the farm must be correct.  Hydro One agreed
that they were guilty of not reading the meter for years and just making up electric charges which I had  paid  regularly.”
That’s a  long story.  Fighting big corporations is not easy.  Winning is  almost impossible.  We made a  kind of 50/50 deal regarding back payments.
One thing I do remember clearly.  That executive was earning $650,000 that year.  Public information.  I  was receiving my teachers pension of around 
$3,000 a  month.  A  case of David and Goliath.  Exhausting but the public support for my  case was  exhilarating.  Mostly so.  There are still some people
who say “Alan, you didn’t pay your bills I  notice in the newspaper.’

Eventually the pile of  documents in this fight measured  3” thick.  Not easy.  Thankfully my dad’s
schooling in the use  of swear  words were particularly useful.


In the 1920’s there was a  cheap  hotel at the corner  of Roncesvales and Queen Street.
Dad told Eric snd  I a wonderful story that ended  with him flopping one of the hotel rooms.
“I was coming back  to Ontario from a Harvest Excursion in Saskatchewan.  The whole
goddamn summer I had been pitching sheaves onto hay  wagons or into the mouths
of  threshing machines.  Loved the work really.  Stayed in a flop house — maybe a whore house as well —
in Moosejaw at times.  Late in fall when  weather turned  cold and  snow was sweeping the prairies I
decided to come home on the train.  Played  a bit of  poker.  Train was full of gjuys like me.
Eventually I fell asleep in my seat.  Took off  my boots. When I woke  up my boots were gone. New  boots
bought from Harvest money.  We pulled into the Parkdale Staton and  I was barefoot.
I had to run through the snow and  slush all the way  to Roncesvales where I booked in
for the night.  Bitch  of a  run.”


Sunnyside railway staton in 1920’s with a steam train passing through.  The staton
was at the foot of  Roncesvales Avenue.  Classy brick station that overlooked the old
Sunnyside Amusement Park which had a  special walkway over the train tracks.  
After the station was demolished the site seemed  barren.  it needed another station
and Gary Duncan along with Librarian Rita —— of the Parkdale Library came up with the
bright idea moving the old Parkdale Railway Station to this site.  They raised a  pile
of money and got a  moving  company with hydraulic  jacks to lift the Parkdale wooden
station then move it along King Street on quiet Sunday  morning.  Quite an event as
many  electricity lines  had to be lifted and  the Street closed.  But the job was a success
and for a short time the Parkdale Station sat where the Sunnyside Station once sat.
Short time?  yes, very short.  Someone set the station on fire one Saturday or Sunday evening.
Apparently a drifter had gained access  through a boarded up window and he  was
roasting a dog in the old station.  The roasting fire got out of hand and in no time the
whole staton was ablaze.  Was that true?  Not sure.  The dog roasting story passed through
a  number of hands before it got to me.


 Sunnyside beach between Roncesvales and  the Humber River was a great attraction during the early 20rh century.  A massive cement breaakwall  had been
built creating a  kind of long lagoon that still exists.  Today swimmers are serviced  by Sunnyside Swimming Pool with its art deco  pavilion but in the
early years the beach itself  was  one of the best swimming places  in  Toronto.  Note the old schooner anchored  off the beach.  Lake Ontario had a lot
of obsolete schooners around  1900 and  even in the 1930’s.  Some were used as stonehookers to lever up slabs of sedimentary rock  to use as foundations
for the fancy buildings being constructed in the city.  The slabs of stone bashed up the schooners rather badly.  Eventually they were barely capable of floating.
Some were hauled down  to Sunnyside Beach  to be used a summer spectacles.  The wrecks were filled with straw laced with kerosene then healed  out through
the break walls to deep  water and set alight.   They burned so bright that they obscured the summer moon.  Entertainment for Torontonians on summer evenings.  I wonder  if the hulls  of these  wrecks
can still be seen by divers swimming out from Sunnyside beach.   Mom and dad were there I think…watcher as  history burned.


“Hey  Marjorie, here is whole collage of  pictures of the High Park Curling club.  Cost $10,500 for three lots of land  when South Roncesvales was being  developed.
The High Park ruling club  remains one the iconic curling  clubs in Canada.   A   stunning place.   


“Remember when we celebrated  the High Park Curling Club centennial by clearing some of the ice on Grenadier pond and  had  curling
teams  from across Ontario try to curl there.  I  say ‘try’ because it was  almost impossible…snow, cracks in the ice,  ridges,  footprints, alcohol, buffalo coats
…all got in the way.”
“What hat are you wearing?”
“That’s  a Russian Army field  hat that Kevin gave me when he was teaching in Slovakia…complete with hammer and cycle.”
“And the coat?”
“An ancien buffalo coat we bought at a  farm sale…made in the 1880’s when the great herds of buffalo were being systematically
slaughtered across western Canada.  Buffalo skin coats were cheap.  Most farmer had  one.  And  a  few have survived which also
applies to the buffalo.”

I  think Al White should get credit for the success of this daredevil adventure.  And  lots  of others. This picture gives a good indicatIon of what conditions on the ice were really like.  A snowstorm developed
making throwing stones extremely difficult.  We had  a solution.  Mike  Dent, second from left in the  group picture was stretched across the snow covered ice and  then pulled down
the length of the sheet.  He became a kind  of Human  Zamboni.   The organizer of our team was  Brad Schneller, pictured on the right.  The skip was  a famous curler,  from Hamilton, who
I seem to remember brought a hollow handled curling broom filled with a good  shot of scotch.   Never got a taste so  that could be just my imagination at work.


Grenadier Pond in late  fall.   Lots of memories here as well.  Around 1948 or 1949, Eric  and  I  discovered the rather neglected swamps and duck ponds on the eastern  side
of High Park contained  some very interesting  life forms.  Huge Japanese snails…some almost a big as our fists.    We decided  to catch a few and did so.   I seem  to think
we sold them for 25 cents each to a local pet story in what is now Bloor West Village.  I feel  guilty about that.


Much  later in life our family had a well orchestrated Grenadier Pond  adventure.   At the time I was creating documentary radio programs  for CBC Radio Noon with host
Christopher Thomas and producer Mike Smee. 

 “Let’s  do  a  program  on the legend of Grenadier Pond, Christopher.”
“According to the legend a number of British  Grenadiers fled westward when the American invaded Fort Your in the War of 1812.  Winter time so the pond
was frozen but not thick enough to hold the British  cannons…the ice broke and down they  went cannons  and  soldiers.”
“Do you think the legend is based  on fact, Alan?”
“No, but it makes a  good  story and  would make a great radio program.”
“I’ll clear the idea with the powers that be here at CBC and arrange for a rowboat.  We can  do
the program  from the centre of Grenadier pond.”
“Let’s make it really dramatic.   I can get our sons, Kevin and Andrew, as divers.  Kevin with snorkel and mask…Andrew
with a proper diving  suit and air tank.”

“OK, Boys, we are a search crew…sort of amateur archaeologists.”
“Looking for?”
“Rumour has it that a bunch of soldiers drowned  here … went down  with their cannons when the ice split a hundred years ago.”
“Skeletons below,  Dad?”
“I doubt it but maybe we can find the snout of an old cannon or a rifle or a buckle.”
“Kevin, your job is to find the best spot to dive…and Andrew you go down and see if you can find a cannon.”

It was quite a good radio program I thought.   Thought that until Andrew surfaced after a  long time beneath our row boat.

“Find  anything, Andrew?”
“Not a thing Dad, I shoved my whole arm deep in the mud…right up  to my shoulder…felt nothing but old twigs and guck.”

Obviously the radio program was sort of silly…fun but silly.  When Andrew spoke I got a chill and realized it was also dangerous.
What if he got his hand stuck?

So much for time travelling.  The memories flowed  through my head on January 17 as we enjoyed the fellowship of new friends and one ex student.
The time between 1945 and 2018 may seem  long to some readers.  But to me it was only yesterday.  Credit for triggering these thoughts must go
to the  High  Park / Parkdale Rotary Club whose photo collages decorate the walls of the High Park Pavillion dining room.  I belonged to that club for
several  years and was impressed  by the public spirit of these men and women.  A small club that has had a deep and  glorious effect on the 
High Park community.  And of course credit to Marjorie and  Carl, Lucy, Marlyn, Gerry…so many others.

A  lifetime in High Park…today on the left…yesterday  on the right. “He’s not heavy, he’s my brother”

alan skeoch
January  17, 2019


One other High Park story comes to mind.  A little bizarre.

High Park has a large area cleared for sports…a baseball field and a football field…even tennis courts.

About 1965 or 1970, Sam Markou and I were coaching  the Junior Football team at Parkdale Collegiate and we
arranged an exhibition game against an east Toronto football  team.   Our site was the football field at the north
end  of High Park.  Everything seemed to be going well in the first half of the fame  except our quarterback John
Wolowiec got hid hard a couple of times.  Hitting each other is just a natural part of the game of football.  That;s
why we had all that gear…helmet, shoulder pads, knee pads, padded pants and  jock  straps.   What Sam and I did
not know  was that John Wolowiec’s  mother did not know about John playing  football. Apparently he had a slight
brain concussion in some other sport years earlier.   Some  of the boys were aware of that fact. Sam and  I were
totally unaware as  John never said  a  word to us.  To get the guys  up for the game we gave them a pep talk
that involved  real macho lingo.  “Want you to go out there and hit them hard, boys.   Show them that Parkdale 
boys have guts.  No cry baby stuff…etc. etc.”

The game deteriorated after John got knocked down a  couple of times.  Our boys were really playing rough…hitting hard 
on the line…bursting through to get the other quarter back…tackling as if in physical combat.  Seemed like 
good football to Sam and I.   Told the boys that at the half  time.

Then the other teams bus pulled up and the whole opposition team  began to board the bus.  The game was  only
half over. 

“What’s going on?” Sam asked the other coach.
“We don’t play teams like yours…we play teams with moral principles.”

As  they loaded our boys formed a kind of gauntlet.  Very embarrassing.

“What happened boys”
“They hit Wolowiec too much…just getting even.”

Later Sam and  I were given hell by John’s mother who blamed us for recruiting him.
John was a great quarterback.  Too bad about he concussion.  We never knew.
Maybe we  were not the best football coaches the  world had ever seen.   High Park memories…lots  of them…
this football experience was not one of  our best memories.

alan skeoch
january 17, 2019