(why I hate guns)

alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

Dad Startled us one Christmas when I was  15 and Eric 14.   He bought us a Red Ryder  BB gun.
That was the only Christmas present he had ever bought us and he used the usual scam…i..e He put
a dollar downpayment and left the rest to us.  Or, rather, to mom since I do not remember how the financing
was resolved.

The gun had a very short life…one day and it died ignominiously smashed against the Manitoba Maple in our back yard.
That one day still embarrasses me now that I am 82.  What an asshole I could be at times.  If you judge my seeming Voltaire
like innocence as some kind of fairy tale Prince of Light marvelling at the world around him.  Then you are not getting
the true picture.  I am also a Prince of Darkness who has  done things of which I am not around.  The BB gun caper is my best example.

Dad set himself up as an example of proper BB gun behaviour that Christmas Eve, 1954.  We opened  the paper bag 
and found the new gun.  Mom frowned.  She loved her husband but could not always control him.  She had no idea
he bought this ‘dollar down’ Red Ryder special.  Mom disliked guns.  “Give me one god reason why we should
have a gun,” she said.

Dad took the gun right away and set himself up as a sniper in our little second floor kitchen.  “Leave the goddamn light out.”
The window was small.  Just enough room for mom to hang out the clothes to dry on the revolving clothes line.  There was
a clothespin pocket on the line where mom forced dad to keep his Limburger cheese.  Strong stuff.  Maybe his cigars as
well…White Owl Invincibles that he could only smoke outside the house.  Best lit boldly at the racetrack. Lit at home slyly
in the back yard only.   So dad was familiar
with the little window located high above the back fence.  Perfect sniper eyrie.

Our cat Tinker was a bit of a loose woman, so to speak.  She had lots of lovers when she came in heat.  Other families
had their pets ‘fixed’, something we could not afford or, more accurately, something of which Tinker disapproved.
A couple of Tom Cats made the mistake of serenading Tinker that evening.  They got a stinging BB for their efforts.
IF he even hit one.  Long distance from kitchen window to back fence.

Christmas Day 1954 or  might have been1955.  That day we went to the farm likely by Gray Coach bus since we did
not have a car.  Uncle Frank met us at the Fifth line  with his team of horses and the big bob sleigh or with his well used
Model A Ford that smelled of cattle dung.

Eric and  I took turns carrying the BB Gun … as if it was some kind of sacred artifact.  As the oldest I got the  first
shot out between the house and the barn.

“Eric, walk about fifty feet away and keep you bum facing me. We’ll see if
a BB can sting you through your breeks”

“Yow!  That hurt, Alan.”

  I think that act of stupidity was the moment Eric lost confidence  in  me as  an older brother…as  a mentor…
as someone worthy of admiration .

About that time our cousin Ted Freeman arrived in a decrepit Model T Ford that George Johnson had got working.
Not a top of the line model.  More like a car en route to the scrap yard but out for one more time.
Eric and I hopped in the back.  I had the gun.   

Here  is how  I used it.

1) As we drove down the Fifth line I took pot shots at drive shed and barn stable windows.   
Seemed like fun.  George and  Ted must have been flabbergasted.   Word went up snd down
the line afterward and I did pay for a few windows I think.  Not sure because I tried to wipe the

2) Walking back to Grandma snd Granddad’s farm after George headed home I was pleased to
see Angus McEchern passing  by with his red half ton. “Watch this, Eric!”  I raised the gun
and  took one shot at the back window of the truck.  Angus put on the brakes. Got out.
Looked at the little round hole in his window.   He did not say a word.

How could I be so stupid?   The amazing part was that I was forgiven.  Some of the 
talk on the line  must have gone like this,  “Did  you hear what that city boy Skeoch
did on Christmas Day.  City people  don’t know any better, they live in a jungle.”

That night, when we caught the Gray Coach Bus back to Toronto the BB gun
met its demise.  Smashed  against our Manitoba Maple.

Eric came out of the adventure as pure  and honest as the driven  snow.
…with a little red mark on his bum.   I had to do a lot of apologizing
…but I was forgiven.   Dad?  No one snitched on him.   Payment?
I think mom put up the rest of the money owed on the gun.

alan skeoch
Sept/   2020



(120 mph is a guesstimate)

alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

BELOW are three 1954 pictures of the Oldsmobile 88.  The first picture was included
because of the girl.   Sexy.   Bill’s Olds 88 was black as I remember.

Bill Mashtalar was the biggest boy in our Grade 8 class picture.  I never knew him
really well but did consider him one of my friends.  His parents were Polish and
lived in a grand home a few blocks away.  They must have had good jobs
because the bought a big brand new Oldsmobile 88 about the time Bill and
I were in Grade Eleven.

“Alan, do you want to go for a ride?”
‘In your new car?”
“Of course, just got my licence…we could go down
to High Park and see what’s happening at night.”
“The Oldsmobile has a search light on it…we can sneak up on
lovers and catch them in the sudden beam…should be fun.”
“Nah!  They’ll think we’re cops.”

Now the idea did not particularly appeal to me at the time
but I was reticent to refuse since this was a big moment for
Bill…getting his licence and all.   So away we went in the
darkness of a fall evening.  Maybe ten o’clock.  About the
right time for sexual activity to be at a peak.

Bill drove slowly.  Low beams.  Until he spotted a car
pulled off the roadway in High Park.  Well off the roadway
and therefore a likely candidate for the spotlight beam.

Bill slowed down, switched off his low beams…crept up to
where the target had left the road and then BOOM…
on came the hand held searchlight…soon focused
on the suspect.

Not lovers.  A bunch of guys drinking.

“What the fuck!  You bastards!”…A string of solid obscenities
direct our way.
These guys did not think we were cops.
“Quick, let’s get the bastards!”…and  four or five guys leapt
into their car and slammed it into reverse.

They wanted to get us…and it was our fault.  If caught,
the result would not be pretty.

The chase was on.  Bill switched on the lights and
accelerated as much as was possible on the High
Park road. Down by Howard  House with its cannon aimed
out at imaginary invaders.  Hard right turn onto the Queensway
then a left fn right onto Lakeshore.

The QEW was open at night…clear running…and the Olds 88 was opened up full throttle.  This pictures shows
the QEW at rush hour in 1954.   

“We’ll get on the QEW.  Speed up…”
“They are right behind us.”
“Pray we have green lights to the QEW…we cannot stop.”

We were lucky…all green.  We sped up he QEW ramp…accelerating.
No traffic.  “Where are they now?”
“Right behind us…catching up.”
“I’ll open her up…”   Speeding…90…100…110…heading
for 120 mph.  Fast and getting faster.

“Where are they now?”
“Dropping back…Lucky we have this Olds.”
“Where will we go?”
“Beyond Highway 27…maybe as far as Highway 10, Port Credit.”

“How will we get home?”
“Slow…Lakeshoe Road and side streets “
“Maybe up to Bloor…then home.”

Tail between our legs…
We got home.  Exhausted.  Not much to say to each
other.  Really embarrassed and lucky.

So I have always had a softs spot for those Oldsmobile’s…88’s
and 98’s.  

Now long gone.

alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

P.S. There were others in the car but I cannot remember who
they were.  We were all shaken.  We were not fighters.




OUR Graduation class from Runnymede Public School in 1952.   Wow, were the girls every pretty.  I began to notice them
in Grade 6 which may have been a little early.  See Joan McReynolds (third left). I liked her but never said so or even acted
interested.  I am third right, back row. That’s our grade 8 teacher, Mr. Hambly, who invited us all to his home
on a beautiful June afternoon.   Some of us felt a little guilty about firing paper caps into his prize wasp nest when his
back was turned.  He was a very nice person.   The big guy is Bill Mashtalar (story coming…close call violence years 

My student ID card from 1954…it was three years  earlier that the threats came.   Why would anyone want to beat me up?
Should I go to WESTERN Tech or just pretend the threat never came?

My three years at Runnymede  Public school were happy years.  Grades 6,7 and 8. Non-violent years
for the trick jump into Roger Pughs back yard. But that only worked  once.  When we 
did a vault over the board fence there was a drop of eight or nine feet that we could
not see.  Nasty drop.  Fun to persuade a novice to “:Follow us”.Good joke.  Unprepared
follower went into a free fall with no parachute.  We knew the trick and  landed on our
feet. Potentially violent I suppose.

My first few months  at Humberside Collegiate were not great.  Culminated in
a potentially violent fight that I was destined to lose.  Someone knew my locker
number.  One day my text books were loaded with indelible ink obscenities like
“Fuck Off” “Asshole”, etc.  I was devastated because I did not know I was hated
by someone until that moment.  The only person knowing my combination lock number was one of my
good friends.  We shared the locker.   He was the only possible source.  Why would he do that?  Later that week
there was a scribbled note in my shared locker. “Come  over to Western Tech
after school.  Someone wants to fight you.”  I know this note does not sound like
much of  a threat but put yourself in the shoes of a non violent kid, in a brand new 
school, suddenly confronting anonymous enemies that wanted to beat the shit out
of him for no discernible reason.   I still do not know who hated me that much.
Nor why.
That’s a laugh.  But it will affect your lungs…left unsaid.

It was  possible the cigarette incident triggered the hatred.  But that is a  stretch.
The First week at Humberside I walked to school with Bill Rankin and Bob Taylor.
Friends.  They stopped at the Ravine Gardens hockey rink to light up cigarettes
before school.  “Try it, Alan…get some cigarettes”  So  I stole three Craven A
cigarettes from Fran’s pack at Hertell’s drug store where I was a clerk earning
35 cents an hour.  Fran would not care but I did not want anyone to know i was
starting to smoke.  So next day I lit up the Craven A with Bob and Bill.  I remember
the moment so  clearly.  As I dragged the smoke in my lungs I thought, “What the
hell am I doing this for?”  And I threw away the cigarette then gave my extra 
stollen cigarettes to Bob and Bill.  We did  not share much after that.  They both
left high school in Grade Ten.  Our friendship evaporated with the smoke.
Maybe Bill resented me for some reason.  He was also my locker partner.

Did I go over to Wetsern Tech to get the shit beaten out of me?  Get serious.
I stayed put.  Never found out who had been ticketed to beat the shit out
of me  but suspected several erstwhile friends.  Maybe not Bill as he said
he others knew our combination.  Odd Comment though. There was no follow up to the threat.
And I began looking for new friends.  Found them.  Russ Vanstone,
Gord Sanford and Jim  Romaniuk.   Friends for life.  

alan skeoch
Sept. 2020



alan skeoch
Sept 2020
I know this is a summertime picture.  Imagine no leaves and an icy day in

The older I got the more guns I saw. Especially on visits to the farm.
It seemed every teen ager used guns and  loved hunting just for
the thrill of the kill.  Groundhogs were the most common  target because
there were so many digging up farm fields. Now there are hardly any.  None
on our farm.  None on the fields of the fifth line.  In  1950 they were as common
as hen’s teeth and therefore worth killing it seemed.   

Porcpines, however, were rare.  And I thought they were protected. i.e. not to
be shot.

One winter  day, however, I ran breathlessly back to my Grandparents farm house.
“Granddad there’s a porcupine in the big pine deep in the back swamp.”
His response startled and unsettled me.  “Wait until I get the gun. Then we
will go back to the bush and get him.”   I did not want to do that.  I loved
the discovery of a live creature high in a tree.   

Granddad was old by then and  had to walk with help of a crutch.  He did
not get out of the farm house much in the winter unless they needed firewood
from the pile back near the pump.  So this was exciting for him.  Not for me.
We hobbled our way to the back bush.   I hoped the porcupine had moved off
but it was still there.  High up.  “Have you used a rifle before, Alan?”
“No.”  “Well this is a chance to learn…aim and shoot.” (22 calibre  single shot rifle)
I aimed and deliberately missed a couple of shots.  Granddad would not give 
up so my third sot was a killer shot.  “You hit him…but he’s not dead…you will
have to climb the tree to get him down.”

What an ordeal.  I climbed the tree easily but as I got close to the porcupine
blood began dripping onto me.  Felt terrible.  With a stick I tried to knock him
out of the tree but no luck.  Some Porcupine quills fell on me as well as the blood.
No luck.  Left him there and we hobbled back through the snow
to the farm house.  Defeated.  I think he was disappointed in me.  

The next week there was word goiing up and down the farm line about dogs
getting into tussles with porcupines.   Quills stuck in their muzzles.   Both Granddad
and I kept our mouths shut.  This was no doubt my porcupine who finally died
in the tree and  fell to the ground.   I felt a lot of guilt.

After granddad  died the 22 rifle was  part of  our inheritance.  Mom hid it.
When she died the rifle was supposed to go to our boys, Kevin and Andrew. 
Instead  Marjorie insisted we give it to the OPP for destruction.  End  of the rifle


Note:  Another warning…do not read if sensitive like I was (and am)


alan skeoch
Sept 2020

My brother Eric with old Betsy, our shared woman’s bicycle…taken just before we moved
from 18 Sylvan Avenue

Mom really feared my brother and  I would be drawn into the mini gang climate
of Dufferin Park in the late 1940’s.   We, my brother Eric and I, knew that was very
unlikely.   We lived in our own world of make believe and found that very satisfying.
Especially when we found the barrels.  

Some importer on Dufferin Street was shipped his goods from the far east in huge 
hand made wooden barrels  with wooden hoops.  Once emptied they were free for
the taking so we rolled several…two or three..across  the park to the tin clad garage
at the back of our rented flat at 18 Sylvan Avenue.  Our landlady, Mrs. Southwick, did
not seem to care that we were creating a make believe world in that garage.

We set the barrels up vertically then cut holes in the sides so that a one room barrel
hideout became a three room barrel hideout.  Inside we put treasures found nearby
like the wooden parts of old pianos from the piano factory or, better still, the so called
weapons of gang warfare…pipes, knives, clubs.   Two throwaway items were not
collected.  Used safes, by then  we knew what they were.  And broken beer bottles with’
long necks.  These beer bottles with long shard necks for hand grips and  shards of
lethal glass ready  for action.  An easy weapon.  just smash a long necked beer bottle
on a rock.  Presto!  A weapon.  

As mentioned earlier I knew this weapon intimately having fallen on one that
had been discarded in the park when Eric, mom and  I were playing Blind Man’s
Bluff.  I still have the stitched up scar on my instep to prove it.

Our fort was grand until discovered by boys of  a rougher nature.  First some 
took a shit in the fort.  Then they braced us once just outside the fort as mentioned
in Part One of this story.   Remember  The incident when I learned my brother
could  be very brave when faced with trouble. That incident was so disgusting that
I will say no more other than to give Eric credit.

Mom decided we must move.  Neither Eric, Dad nor I wanted to move.  We had the huge
park  as our playground.  Dad had Dufferin racetrack across the road.  Convenient
for the three of us.  But mom did not like what was happening. And she was the
leader of our family  The supporter most of the time.  The money earner.   Dad 
was a skilled and  well paid  tire builder but he spent every dime he earned at various

One day mom’s friend Joyce
Bannon phoned.

“Elsie, the house next door just came up for sale.  It is cheap…$6,000…might
be just what you wanted.”  Low downpayment.  So we  became house owners.  The house was ours.  We lived
upstairs …3 rooms and a tiny kitchen.  Eric and I shared the bedroom with Dad
when he was on night shift…we slept at night, dad slept on days.  Mom slept
on the couch in the middle room with her purse as a pillow to inhibit Dad’s need
for cash at the racetrack.  Imagine, or own house.  A duplex of sorts.

Mr. and Mrs Douglas lived downstairs.  He was a bartender at Spadina and Bloor.
She was a retired prostitute according to whispers.  Wonderful pair of people.
Mrs.  Douglas loved having boys around since she never had any children. They
were quite poor.  Chain smokers because when they died  the walls of the little
duplex were a sticky sickly yellowish brown.  Awful. But good people.

So mom bought 455 Annette Street by putting a small down payment and monthly
mortgage payments of perhaps $100,   I do not know how she did it on the money
earned as a garment sweatshop worker.  She was smart. That’s for sure.


For Eric  and I these months and years at our own home were our halcyon years.
Yes, we joined or formed a gang.  We patrolled the streets of our territory
down Gilmour Avenue to Runnymede Public School.  A gang!  Did I say
a gang?  We were a bunch of pansies.   Instead of fighting we sang.  What a 
bunch  of losers.  A gang that sang.   “Heart of  My Heart,  Lazy River, etc.”
Not a minute of violence.   

I suspect readers would rather hear about violence rather than sweetness and light.
So suffice it to say we had good things happen to us most of the time at our
new home.  Cub scouts, Boy Scouts, Rover Scouts, Presbyterian Youth, even
a short stint in a choir for me.  A longer stint for Eric whose voice must have been
more angelic.  All that and  more.



Violence came though.  From a most unexpected source.  So violent that it was
almost wiped out of my memory until I began writing this story.

The  worst violence came from a kind of  do gooder from the YMCA.  Mom registered
me with the High Park summer outdoor program in the summer of 1950.  Seemed OK but not
great.  I could put up with it.  Until..until…until…the horror day arrived.   My do gooder
leader, probably just a teen ager, ran out of things to do with his assigned boys
so he got imaginative.

“How would you like to go on a field trip to the slaughter house?”
“St. Clair and  Keele…Canada  Packers.”
“Raise your hands if you would like to go.”
(Hands must have been raised…not mine…I did not like the word ‘slaughter’
and was confused by the word ‘packers’.  What is an abattoir? All the other boys were excited 
by the idea.   Yes,  I mean all.  So away we went.)

Right away we were led to the gallery above the cattle killing floor.  High up
so we could see the whole process.
If I had been hit by  a ten ton truck I think I would have been more shocked.

“The cattle are led up the ramp by a Judas goat. See it there.”  (seems the 
traitorous creature was a goat in my memory but it could have been a cow.)

“The lead cattle are stunned by a bolt action hammer…breaks their skulls…maybe
kills them.  Then a chain is wrapped  around their back feet and up they go on
the moving line.  First the throats  are cut that’s why the killing floor is covered
in blood…the twitching is just nerves, the animals are dead…”

I was so horrified by what I saw  that this is the first time in my life I have ever
spoken or written about it.   I am not sure readers could take the full story.  I
moved to the back of the boys. Most of them crowded along the rail actually
enjoying what they were seeing.  Perhaps some were faking.   I hope some 
were faking.  It was hell.  I knew  at that moment what hell must look like even
though I did not believe in hell.  

I could not move.  Closed my eyes.  Behaved  like a pansy I suppose.  Would
we ever leave this insane place?

Who are those men with the long knives on the killing floor?  I mean who would
take such  a job?  (There is an easy answer to that.  Most we’re New Canadians…immigrants)

Men Sloshing through the blood. ..cutting, carving.  Will it never end.  Must i keep
my eyes open?

“Next we will go to the hog slaughter floor.  that is  done a little differently. Follow

“Did our councillor say ‘Next’?  What could be worse than what I am seeing
below me.  Stop! Now! I must close my eyes….must get out of here…
run, Alan, run…”

I am  not sure how I escaped.  I never got to the hog killing horror.  Somehow I
got out of the place.  Exit signs ,,, fear of a wrong turn. Somehow  I walked home.  Stunned. Trying to block  out
what I had just seen.  I sm shaking now, in September 2020, just recalling that
moment in 1950.

Ever since that moment I have had trouble eating meat.  In The immediate aftermath
I  ate no meat.  For months and months.  I never told mom much  about what
I had  seen.  Not sure I even told  Eric.  That was a horror I have saved for my
82nd  year…2020.  And even now I cannot tell the full story of those cattle moving
along the chain hung from giant hooks as their bodies  were dismembered.  There
I said  it.  At last.

There has never  been violence in my life that comes near in comparison  to the
St. Clair slaughter house…Canada Packers or Swift’s … not sure which.
In later years I came to understand  why one farm family I knew ate lots of peanut
butter and no meat.  They knew what happens to their animals eventually.  Or 
maybe they just liked peanut butter as  I did from that moment on.

Mom’s meals were  often things I would rather not think about like pork hocks and
Head Cheese.  The names disguised the food somewhat.  Mom did not have
a lot of money so she made do with cheaper lines of  meat.  I must have saved
her some money when I  stopped eating meat.  

Stopping was not so easy.  Meat was a staple…part of most meals and
sometimes hard to resist.  I loved meat pies for instance even though
a look at the contents below the crust was disquieting.  Chunks of meat…perhaps
not the nicest cuts.   

Time was a great cure.  It was  possible to relegate the memory of that killing floor
to the back burner of my brain.  The older I got the less I thought about it.
This is the first time I have put in words that horrible experience.  Even now
that is not an easy thing to do.   I have spared my  readers by not going into
the detail of what I saw with those long knives.

Gutless, some of you are saying no doubt.  And it was true.  I was gutless…scared…and  scarred for life.

alan skeoch
Sept 2020

P>S>  When Dad retired he took a short job st the St. Claire stock yards organizing the cattle unloaded  daily from farm
stock yard truck, one of which was driven by Bob Root’s father strangely enough.  Dad’ stock yard
job did not last long.  He had to climb s stock yard pen fast when an animal went mad and charged him.
He got another part time job in a liquor store afterwards.

My good friend  in High school, Jim Romaniuk, had a father who spoke only broken English and fluent Ukrainian.  He worked in one of
the slaughter house at St. Clair and Keele, perhaps on the killing floor although I doubt it as he was such a gentle kind of msn.  Then
again he had trouble with English and had to take whatever jobs he could find.

P.SThe stock yards peaked in 1977 and began a rapid decline thereafter until it closed February 10, 1994. Redevelopment began with Home Depot, the first of the “big box” stores to locate on the stock yards site and the CPR shops. A new stock yard was established near Cookstown a small community north of Toronto without any rail service which was no longer required. Following a corporate takeover, Canada Packers closed, the property was levelled and eventually redeveloped with housing. (D/R Macdonald, The Stockyard  Story)



Fwd: EPISODE 117 tracked by a snapping turtle

Error…story should bee 117

Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: EPISODE 117 tracked by a snapping turtle
Date: September 13, 2020 at 11:10:23 PM EDT
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, Marybeth Skeoch <northerndiva5@yahoo.com>, John Wardle <jwardle@rogers.com>


alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

There is much to be  said  about that sixth sense we have on occasions.
I was binding soybeans plants into sheaves for possible movie
decor  when I got the feeling there was something behind me. Really.
So I turned around.  Nothing.  I was all alone.

But wait.  What is that black dot on the trail.  That dot was not there
five minutes ago for that was the trail  I had just used.  Black dot?

Yep.  I was being followed by this big snapping turtle.  Or maybe I was  just in his or her way.
The snapper had no intention of hiding or escaping.  The turtle stayed on the path and expected
me to move.  Which I did.

Many scientists believe we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction of life on earth.  There have been five before ours. (if ours is true).
The snapping turtles have survived extinctions in the past and they may survive  this sixth extinction.  We may not.

The sixth extinction, by the way, has been caused by us….not by a meteor or a sudden volcanic explosion.  We are doing it.
Maybe we can stop it but we have to change our behaviour.  

Meanwhile back at base camp #1, Marjorie was harvesting weeds…keeping
the place ship shape.  And  Woody was with her….

Woody was in the swamp.  He never  goes over his head.

I think these bundles of soybeans will be good decor for a movie set once the leaves
fall off.  

My plan is to reorganize the green house…make it accessible.  After the soybean sheaves have dried.  And  before movie set material
…carts, work benches, stools, tobacco, flax…etc. etc….before all that stuff comes back.

alan skeoch
Sept 2020

EPISODE 116 tracked by a snapping turtle


alan skeoch
Sept. 2020

There is much to be  said  about that sixth sense we have on occasions.
I was binding soybeans plants into sheaves for possible movie
decor  when I got the feeling there was something behind me. Really.
So I turned around.  Nothing.  I was all alone.

But wait.  What is that black dot on the trail.  That dot was not there
five minutes ago for that was the trail  I had just used.  Black dot?

Yep.  I was being followed by this big snapping turtle.  Or maybe I was  just in his or her way.
The snapper had no intention of hiding or escaping.  The turtle stayed on the path and expected
me to move.  Which I did.

Many scientists believe we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction of life on earth.  There have been five before ours. (if ours is true).
The snapping turtles have survived extinctions in the past and they may survive  this sixth extinction.  We may not.

The sixth extinction, by the way, has been caused by us….not by a meteor or a sudden volcanic explosion.  We are doing it.
Maybe we can stop it but we have to change our behaviour.  

Meanwhile back at base camp #1, Marjorie was harvesting weeds…keeping
the place ship shape.  And  Woody was with her….

Woody was in the swamp.  He never  goes over his head.

I think these bundles of soybeans will be good decor for a movie set once the leaves
fall off.  

My plan is to reorganize the green house…make it accessible.  After the soybean sheaves have dried.  And  before movie set material
…carts, work benches, stools, tobacco, flax…etc. etc….before all that stuff comes back.

alan skeoch
Sept 2020


Note:  You may be sick of this biography.  Fine.  Don’t read it.  Simple.  


Sometimes  my imagination takes over in my life.  Memory can be faulty but always contains
a kernel of truth or perhaps some events are so shocking that they get locked into our brains
and are easy  to recall.  In this picture I must be eight years old.  Visiting our grandparents
farm which was a very safe place to be in the turbulent 1940’s.

What you see here is  not remotely connected to my real world.  This picture was taken in 
western Alaska  in 1959 when an  American Mining company armed  our crew with 30-06
rifles in case we were attacked by Kodiak  bears.  We never carried the rifles  Just stacked
them where the helicopter dropped us.  There was no need for violence against the bears…
their guts were stuffed  with dead  or dying salmon.  Playing guns  as  a child had no 
connection  with playing guns as an  adult.  Two different worlds that did  not cross.

alan skeoch
sept  2020

Violence is something I have tried to avoid all my life.  I just thought about that
this morning while wrapped around Marjorie in our bed.  There are people that
admire violence and try to replicate it in their daily life.  I know that. I have seen
that.  I have been the receiver of violence on a few rare occasions.  Most of  the
time I have found ways to avoid violence.  Like running although I cannot find
a  memory of running away from violence.  I just try to avoid violence whenever
such a situation arrives.  ‘Chicken shit’, was once the term.

What in hell’s half acre ever made me think of that this morning?  I have no answer.
But one violent incident came to mind.  Perhaps the incident should be left to the
end of this story.  But I am going to put it at the first.  

University life offered so many things to do other than sit in the library and try
to become an intellectual like Emmanuel Kant.   Or a writer
like Hemingway or Steinbeck.   Or even a poet of folk life like Robert Frost.
Lots  more things to do than read  books in other words.  Best thing was to chase
after Marjorie.  Not the only thing though.

So one day I joined a make up basketball team at Hart House.  Victoria college
boys against University College boys.  Just for fun.  I was  not a basketball star…
can’t even remember ever getting any points in that career.  

We were playing fast.  Running up and  down the floor.  Offence then defence. For some
strange reason a UC kid took offence at one of our players and he hit him with
his  fist.  Our player hit back.  The two of them tumbled and wrestled with lots of
expletives like “You son of a bitch” and “bastard” between blows.  It was not nice
so for some reason I  cannot explain I decided to break up the fight.  To pry them
apart.  To be the peacemaker, a role I admired in the larger world of the United Nations.

Peacemaking did not work.  Instead the UC guy turned on me.  He grabbed  me
by the throat with both hands and began to strangle me.  I remember so clearly
falling to the floor and looking up at  his face.  I knew him.  At least I knew ‘of him’
because his family were famous  lawyers in Toronto.  His face seemed joyful.

He kept pressing on my throat.  Choking me.  For no reason other than the
love of  violence.  How to survive?   I think I faked  passing out…or maybe
I did pass out for a moment.  

I know that memory may seem trivial to any person reading this story but
it was not trivial to me.  What I saw in his face was  a love of violence.
He liked beating people up  That was why he played  basketball on that
winter afternoon at Hart House.  The bible says something about “Blessed
are the peacemakers for they shall inherit’…something or other.  Not true
I realized that day

So this story is going to be about my confrontations with violence in my
82 years of life on this earth.

I have avoided violence all my life except maybe in kindergarten.  Seems I dimly
remember getting pushed  on the stairs at Kent Public School and pushing back
at some other five year old.  A very misty memory.  Reinforced by the fact the
teacher commented the fact to my mother.  A tale I find hard to believe.  My 
only sharp memory of kindergarten was the teacher saying. “All fright children,
time  for your nap, everyone put your heads on the desk.”  And that is hardly
a violent memory.  Seemed stupid to go to school and then fall asleep with my
head  on the desk.  I may have resisted  But I did not rebel.  

Violence was all around me as a youngster.   The larger world of incredible
violence  was World  War II of which my brother and I were largely unaware.
We lived in a climate of  make believe violence for we loved playing ‘guns’
together.   In the winter of 1944 we built a big snow fort on the front lawn of 
18 Sylvan Avenue and then defended imaginary attackers with guns made out
of broomsticks.    This  was not violence nor was it training for violence.  This
was imagination and fun.   Mom took us to the movies regularly where we watched
Slip Mahoney and the Bowery Boys act out silliness.  Then walking home in
the dark on Fall or winter evenings  Eric and I would play ‘guns’ without even
thinking of the deeper meaning of  that foolishness.  I remember being shot
by Eric on one of those nights…imaginary bullet hit me…and I died in a
great dramatic sprawl through a pile of leaves ready to be burned. Lucky
I did not land on some dog turds.  But the drama was great.  Made greater
by a woman  passing by who  really thought I was hurt badly or dead.
Until mom came along saying, “Just the boys playing guns”
We  lived  in a cocoon of non violence at home.  Protected and  secure
and loving.  Made so mostly by mom but reinforced by Dad when the horses
were not running at Dufferin  Racetrack across the park from our house.

Mom  and dad seemed pleased  with having a  baby around.   So they wove a cocoon around me…and later around Eric.

Mom made all our clothes.   She also enriched our imaginations.  Dad was a gambler and the kind of  father
I wished most children could have had.  Eric  and I remember them both with great affection. They protected us.

Eric and I loved playing guns.   It was  an  imaginary world for us.  Occasionally the two worlds  collided  as in this picture taken
at the cannon that protects Howard House in High Park from American invaders.  We  were around  10 or 11 years  old.

Outside the cocoon there was violence.  The real world scared me.  People 
did nasty things to each other in that real world.
It was easy to separate the two  worlds by the way.   Some psychological
whizz bangs will say I am wrong.   Will believe that imagination can be
a learning ground for violence.  Bull shit!

Comfort…security…non-violence.  Encouraged by Grandma and Grandpa Freeman who provided an escape from
the gang warfare we  witnessed in Dufferin Park in the postwar years of the 1940’s

At Kent Public School I could have gotten the shit knocked out of me
were it not for my friend Karl Slalberg.  Karl and his mom lived in a
tiny apartment…two rooms I think…in a house on a street north of Bloor
St.   I know that because his mom had  me over a couple of times.
Karl got into some kind of trouble.  “Juvenile  Delinquent” was the term
used I think.   That mystified  me because he was such a nice kid.  No father
around.   But Karl protected me.  Funny because he must have  been the
same age  as me.  Perhaps Grades 3 or 4 when we were 8 or 9  years old.

“Alan, we could earn a lot of marbles with this cigar box.”
“Cut little pieces out … some big, some small…all holes in
which a marble could get through with difficulty.”

“Oh, that game.  The big boys play it every day at recess…lots of
cigar boxes put against the wall.  Get the  marble through the hole
and  win  “Two  for  One” for the big hole or “Five for One” for the little 
hole.  Miss the holes and lose your marble.  Most of us lose our marbles.”

“Right.  So let’s set up our own cigar box.  Win lots of marbles.”

So we did.  Karl got the cigar box ready…cut the holes, wrote numbers
above the holes.  We took our place against the school wall and invited
marble gamblers to take chance.  Big payoff…maybe five to one or higher.
Karl left me in charge of the cigar box often.  One particular time, however,
got ground into my memory.  I stood beside the box and a big guy..maybe
a kid as ancient as ten or eleven years old…this big guy rolled his marble
right into the big pay off hole.  I owed him ten marbles.  Ten marbles!
I had no marbles.  We expected to earn marbles.  We expected  marble
gamblers to lose most of the time.  We expected  to build  up our capital
starting at zero.

“OK, kid, you owe me ten marbles.”
“I can’t.  I have no marbles.”  I said weakly, my knees trembling.
“Pay up!”  he  demanded.  

Then things got really nasty.  Other boys gathered around.  I was about to
be punched when Karl arrived.  He was a great fighter.  An even better threatener.
Nothing happened.   Maybe Karl said he would pay tomorrow or just Karl’s
presence defused  the situation.   I learned a big lesson that day.  A couple of big 
lessons.  First, do not make promises you cannot deliver.  Second, violence
is easy to trigger…harder to reduce.

I know this sounds silly but the memory is clear…75 years after the fact.

I had an even earlier memory of violence.  A memory that today I find hard
to believe.  Did this really happen?  Grade one maybe.  Six or seven years old.
Our nice teacher  gave all of us a cucumber from his  garden.  Male teacher I
seem to recall although that does not matter.  A cucumber.  Small one.  What a
prize.  But how can I get it home for mom?   

Getting home each day was difficult because I had to cross through Dufferin
Park.  That meant crossing the ravine that ran  at right angles blocking the route to our house
In 1944 or 1945.  Our house at 18 Sylvan Avenue was  almost right inside the
park.  It has been demolished now sadly.   Crossing that ravine was like crossing
no man’s land in our imaginary world of cops  and robbers or cowboys  and Indians.
Only this ravine was real and the boys hiding there were very real.

Often They frisked  me to see what they could steal.  Getting the cucumber home
was going to be very difficult.  I  seem to remember even being stripped in these
no man’s land  confrontations.  Could  I get the cucumber home for mom?
How?   Then a solution came to me.  My shoe!   I hid the cucumber in my shoe
and managed to get it home.  It must have been a small cucumber but it was a
great victory.   The violence .. potential violence .. in that ravine remains a
powerful memory even today.   

Must be true because the City Parks sent a crew to cut down the bushes and
trees in that ravine.  Today  it is just a dip in the grass of Dufferin Park.  Some’
of the ravine has been in filled with subsoil to make a skating rink.  Did the
city do this because of the dangers.  Or is that just my imagination.  Did  any of
this really happen?  It must have.  How big was that cucumber in my shoe?  Did
I walk with a fake limp?  Would mom make us a cucumber sandwich?

Dad made a lot of mistakes in his life…some of which I have told in earlier
Episodes.  Most of them were funny in retrospect.  But one that I remember
was anything but funny.

“Red, can you babysit the boys tonight”
“I  will be working late.”

Dad did not play games with us.  He treated us as miniature adults
really or as interlopers who got between him and the horses racing
at Dufferin Racetrack.  He would have preferred to take us to the racetrack
but no horses were running at night.

That particular night he decided to fill in the time by taking us to a
movie at the Doric theatre down at College and  Dufferin.  Dad  was not
a motion picture movie buff.  He  did not even look at what was
playing.  Mom, on the other hand, pre selected our movies as
mentioned earlier.

I will never forget that Doric movie. It scarred me for life  I came out
terrified.  I wanted to run out before it ended but Dad  made me stay.
I think he was half asleep.   

This memory is graphic.   Not imaginary.  I can see in my mind the time
and the place.  The dark night .  The Doric  theatre which was a run down 
movie house.   What I remember clearest however was the horror of that film.
Some sinister people operated a dual business.   They performed civil
marriages … couples in love tying the knot.  Loving  couples.  Especially
couples with no kinfolk to get in the way.  After the marriage ceremony
the couples were murdered.  Their bodies kept in a dark place at the 
back of the business.  Why murdered?  So they could  be robbed I think.

The murders terrified me so  much that for weeks, months afterward
I would not go to a movie theatre.  Not even a silly Bowery Boys movie.
I had nightmares about the movie and  still do.  

I think Dad thought I was a bit touched in the head.  He did not
see the movie.  Mom wondered what had  happened as I was  white
in the face and trembling.  Gutless some of you might say.  I did  not
like violence.

We saw lots of violence.  Eric and I.  It was all centred  in Dufferin Park
where groups of ‘big guys and  big girls”  congregated.   
Dufferin Park was  Beanery Gang territory.  Lots of things happened
there.  Seems I remember being under a forsythia bush in the ravine 
watching two people tossing around each other in sexual paradise.
That memory must be close to reality as well since Eric and I collected
used  safes at one point.  (Sheiks was the brand name as I remember).

“Mom, they make great balloons.”
“Don’t touch those dirty old things.”
“But mom!”
“Garbage..put them in the garbage now.”

The jumping around under the forsythia bushes did  not seem that violent.

The violence came when the Junction gang invaded  Beanery Gang territory.
Gangs fought viciously.   Gang fights?  Was it plural…i.e many gang fights.
Or was it just one  gang fight that we saw.  Likely just one which my  imagination
has pluralized.  

It was very violent.  Weapons were involved Knives and lead pipes….perhaps
baseball bats.  Which memories  are most graphic.  Which memories are likely real
in other words.   One stands out.  A gang member was trying to protect his girlfriend
…fighting some guy face on when another guy came up from behind and hit him
over the head with a lead pipe.  He dropped to the ground.   Another incident
occurred near our house on Sylvan Avenue when a police officer caught one of the
gang members and  had him spread eagled on the squad  car hood.

How true was this?   The strange thing is that I cannot find written records
of these gang fights.   Seems  they would be big news.   Are they only in my mind.

So graphic to me.  Just down Gladstone Avenue was the home of the Simmons
family whose boys were gang members as I remember.  Toenails Simmons was
in jail I think.   His brother showed Eric and  I how to make a knuckle duster
out of a  sharpened roofing nail and some white  medical tape.  

“Just hone the nail to a sharp point with a file…needle point…then
put the flat part of the nail on your finger.  Bind it there  by winding 
white tape around it.  Make sure the tape covers the sharpened 
point.  If a fight happens then your fist becomes a  better weapon . one 
blow with the fist and the nail pops through and cuts the other guy.”

Mom feared Eric  and  I would  get drawn into the gangs.  That 
was why we moved  to 455 Annette Street in 1948 or 1949.
How she managed to do that is one of the wonders of our lives.
She did it …bought a small rather begraggled house in a very nice


P>S.   I nearly forgot the Robertson’s Candy Truck heist.  That was also 
a lesson in violence.  Rather a lesson in how to avoid violence.  Eric  and
I witnessed  a bunch of boys stealing boxes  of candy bars from the
back  of the Robertson Candy truck.  They got a few boxes and then ran
like hell down Dufferin.   We knew who they were.  We saw  what happened.

A policeman came and asked for witnesses and  Eric and  I did the 
right thing.  Or the wrong thing.  

“Any witnesses?” said the cop
“We saw what happened”
“Did you see who stole the the candy?”
“Do you know where they live?”
“Will you take me there?”
“Yyyyes.”  (less confident voice)

So he  drove us down to the thieves house on Dufferin just
below College St.  The policeman knocked on the door and
a woman answered.  

“Do you have boys?”
“I do.”
“Can I see them for a moment?”
(two boys came to the door)
“Are these the boys that stole the boxes candy?”

That was when I became aware that Eric and i had
made a big mistake.  We were snitching big time.  
We were also inviting violence if these boys decided
to get even.  We were scared.    Nothing bad really
happened.  We were not punched out as I remember
but we were scared.  We deserved to be punched out
I thought. 

Since then I believe that policeman was not thinking
straight by putting Eric and I in  danger.

P.P.S.   In another disgusting moment of potential  violence
I became  aware of the courage of my brother.  We had
been surrounded  in the park by a group of tough kids.
We knew them but did not associate with them.  I think I
best not tell the full story however.  Suffice it to say they
had disgusting plans for us.  First they picked on Eric and
he Refused their orders no matter what.  And he
was prepared to fight even if outnumbered and likely to lose…
even with my help.  I had thought the wiser course was to
run away but that would  have been difficult.   They backed
down eventually so nothing really happened except I was proud
of my brother.  These same boys  had broken into a fort
we had made out of wooden barrels and scrap  lumber.
They used the fort as a toilet.



alan skeoch
sept. 9, 2020

“Dad, just caught a big one  this morning….about a mile out in the lake.”
“Holy Cow, what is it?”
“Big Coho Salmon…lots of them down deep…These Coho’s love dining on the little alewives.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“Already done….I got the remains of my lure out of its mouth then put it back in the lake.”
“So what kind of a fisherman are you?”
“Catch and Release…guess I would be called a sport fisherman.”
“Why do it?”
“Because  these big salmon…the Cohos and the Chinooks…they  put up a real  fight when  snagged…takes
a lot of work to get this Coho hanging from my index finger…a lot of work.:
“I hear the Coho’s are an invasive species…not natural to the Great Lakes.”
“Don’t they disrupt the natural balance of underwater  life.   What has happened to the giant lake Trout
that were once the top predators?”
“Some are still around.  A breeding group are  still in a spot in Lake Superior”
“Ever caught one?”
“Sure.  Not much fun though.”
“No challenge catching a big Laker.  They just float up to the boat.  Often  dead by the time they are landed…no point in
catch and release.”
“Why don’t they fight like your big  Coho.”
“Bladder problem.  They live in the deep  water…200 to 300 feet down.  When caught and hauled up their bladders expand
and pretty well knocks them out.  The Cohos on the other hand burp as they come up.”
“Bladders adjust to shallower water.  So  they come up mad as  hell and ready for a fight.”
“Looks ugly enough.”
“These big salmon are all muscle…the giant Lake Trout have  a lot of fat.  Some old Lakers have been
weighed at 200 pounds.   They can live for a hundred years.   These Cohos have a short life spent gorging
on alewives.

“Seems a shame to let an invasive species  like that Coho loose in the great Lakes…must have
changed the whole ecology of the Great Lakes.   They must gobble  up all the small fish.”

“They do…and that is  why they are here…to eat the alewives by the ton.”
“Dad, look up that guy Tanner…a Yank from Michigan   He changed the Great Lakes…totally.  He dropped  in these  Cohos and
also Chinooks…two kinds of salmon from the Pacific.  The  alewives were killing the Great Lakes  fishery.  By the time Tanner
came  along  90% of the fish life in all the Great Lakes were alewives.”

“What is an alewife.?”

“Another invasive species that thrived in our waters.  Small…might be called a bait fish. Spend their lives eating fish eggs…killing the natural fish that way.   Seemed they could 
not be stopped because our natural predators…the big Lake Trout the lurked  deep down…were being sucked to death by another
invasive specie…the Sea Lamprey….ugliest thing in the Great Lakes.  Sort of a snake with a head full of Velcro.   They feasted
on our Lake Trout.  Swam up alongside  them and ‘zap’ they shoved that Needle toothed most into the Lakers and  sucked their
blood until they weakened  and died   One lamprey could kill 40 pounds of Lakefish in a season.  With no predator fish the alewives
multiplied into the millions…billions.  So many that a few lost to Lampreys was insignificant..”

“Have you ever caught a Coho with a Lamprey attached?”

“Occasionally.  We are ordered to kill any Lamprey we catch.  Never release them. God, are they ugly.  Killers.”

“How did the lampreys and alewives get into the Great Lakes in the first place.?”

“Canals.   We built some great canals.  The Erie Canal in New York State was a highway for the alewives from the 1840’s.  Then
the Welland  Canal and St. Lawrence Seaway became super highways for he lamprey.   We did it to oursleves.    We murdered
the Great Lakes by overfising and by opening those  canals.

“…Dad, why don’t you look up that guy Tanner.  He saved the Great Lakes.”

“What’s  his first name?”

“I’ve forgotten.  But I remember one thing he said just before he dumped the first Coho or  Chinook  Salmon into the Lake Michigan watershed.”


“He was flying over Lake Michigan and notice a huge white  thing floating on he surface.  He asked the pilot what it was. “Those alewives,,,
millions of them die when water temperature changes. They float.”   Tanner asked the pilot to bank the plane and go lower for a better
look. The  white patch was  seven miles long and half a mile wide.  Millions…billions of dead alewives.”  Tanner never forgot that sight.
By the 1950’s and 1960’s the
Great Lakes were packed with alewives.  Often there were so many dead alewives on some beaches that front end loaders and
dump trucks had to be hired to scoop them up and bury them in pits.  Something had to be done and Tanner was the man that changed everything.  Look him
up, Dad.”

I spent the months of studying the impact of invasive species on our Great Lakes. There are many fascinating stories about the changes in biomass in the
Great Lakes.  Some stories are very disturbing.  No story is quite  as dramatic as the story of Howard Tanner.  Normally I would like to tell the story in my own
words but the words of Lou Blouin, writer and public radio producer, are so good…so dramatic…so multi-faceted that I have quoted him below.



Featured in the November 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Howard Tanner is not a man who likes to talk about himself. But there are moments when he can’t help but beam with some degree of self-satisfaction. Like the time he was just coming ashore from fishing and a 10-year-old boy identified him simply as “the man who invented salmon.” The latter isn’t such a bad shorthand for what actually happened. Because the fish that many assume has always been here is only in the Great Lakes because Tanner said it should be.

The clock hanging on the wall of Howard Tanner’s dining room—the one he insists every guest pay a visit—is little more than a rectangular piece of wood, heavily lacquered, with thin gold hands. It has the look of something that was made in a trophy shop—which is appropriate, given that it’s really more of a plaque than a timepiece. Lean in closely, and you’ll see it is an award from the Freshwater Fisheries Hall of Fame; a memento documenting the day, according to a small inscription, that Tanner was “eternally enshrined” in fishing history.

“Doesn’t it sound like I’m already dead?” Tanner, now in his early 90s, shouts from his chair in the living room.

His morbid quip is clearly a well-worn joke—an attempt, perhaps, to blunt pride with a little self-deprecating Midwestern modesty. Because, in truth, Howard Tanner has been “eternally enshrined” for good reason. Some have dubbed his work of the 1960s as nothing less than the largest and most successful biomanipulation project ever attempted.

Howard Tannermynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-768×1152.jpg 768w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-682×1024.jpg 682w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-400×600.jpg 400w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-1140×1711.jpg 1140w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-970×1455.jpg 970w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-480×720.jpg 480w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d.jpg 1333w” data-src=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-200×300.jpg” data-sizes=”(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px” class=”wp-image-153146 size-medium lazyloaded” src=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-200×300.jpg” sizes=”(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px” srcset=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-200×300.jpg 200w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-768×1152.jpg 768w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-682×1024.jpg 682w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-400×600.jpg 400w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-1140×1711.jpg 1140w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-970×1455.jpg 970w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d-480×720.jpg 480w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1d.jpg 1333w” style=”box-sizing: inherit; border: 0px; height: auto; max-width: 100%; opacity: 1; transition: opacity 400ms 0ms; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; width: auto;”>

Howard Tanner

Meet Howard Tanner

Hear Tanner’s own version of the story and he’ll tell you he was simply in the right place at the right time. The Michigan native and fisheries biologist who grew up in Bellaire had returned home after several years in Colorado to take the head job at the fisheries department at the Michigan Department of Conservation. In 1964, there were certainly more uplifting jobs he could have moved his young family across the country for.

By mid-century, the Great Lakes had become, by many measures, an ecological disaster zone. Invasive species had devastated lake trout, the Great Lakes’ native trophy fish, and overfishing was finishing off what was left. Pollution had grown so intense that environmental groups were collecting dead, oil-soaked ducks from the Detroit River and dumping them on the lawn of the State Capitol. Rotting alewives were washing up on Lake Michigan beaches in a layer described as “a foot thick and 300 miles long.” And the Department of Conservation’s strategy for dealing with any of it, to the extent that there was a strategy, had been labeled a disaster. So when Tanner took the helm, he did so, he admits, aided by low expectations. In fact, as he remembers it, he was only given one directive: To “do something,” and if he could, “make it spectacular.”

As it turned out, Tanner was well-practiced in dealing with loose instructions. Back in Colorado, regulations were thinner and bureaucracy more flexible within the fisheries division. “I wouldn’t say it was the Wild West exactly, but there certainly was a Western style,” Tanner remembers. As he talks, you can tell he has a certain degree of fondness for the time he accidentally got shot with a cyanide gun, or the winter he almost died in an avalanche. Official work, he says, often evolved into leisurely fishing trips where missions were accomplished with the aid of relaxed campfires and plenty of beer. Ecologically, his team played fast and loose with the rules as well, experimenting with all sorts of “crazy things”—for one, introducing non-native species into lakes and reservoirs. One of Tanner’s team’s most unusual and promising experiments in Colorado had been introducing Pacific salmon—a saltwater fish—into freshwater. Despite skepticism that a saltwater species could adapt to freshwater, the salmon thrived and the fishermen loved it.

Now back in Michigan, faced with new challenges, Tanner began wondering if salmon could play a role in restoring some the Great Lakes’ former glory. Void of a top predator fish, the lakes had become ecologically and economically unviable—overrun by smaller, non-native fish like the alewife. Fish that the public actually wanted to catch were on the wane. If introduced, Tanner thought, the salmon could give the Great Lakes a much-needed new kingpin—and give the people of Michigan one of the world’s top trophy fish right on their doorsteps.

To be clear, what Howard Tanner was now contemplating was nothing less than the intentional introduction of a non-native Pacific species to the largest freshwater system in the world. And when he worked up the nerve to start speaking publicly about his idea, people were quick to raise concerns. First and foremost, no fisheries biologist had ever attempted to manage water even close to this size. In Tanner’s case, his master’s degree program had put him in charge of a 27-acre lake; his doctoral program, six lakes—the largest of which was six acres. Lake Michigan alone was 23 million acres. “It was like somebody who had gotten good at raising geraniums in flower pots was now being given a cattle ranch,” Tanner says.

There were also logistical questions. Some argued salmon would die in freshwater or simply head into the St. Lawrence River and out to the open ocean. Others pointed to the many failed attempts to introduce salmon to the Great Lakes dating back to the late 1800s. The plan also faced one giant, undeniable obstacle: coho salmon, the fish that Tanner had identified as the species of choice, simply couldn’t be had. At the time, every single coho egg harvested from the hatcheries of Oregon and Washington were spoken for—part of a grand attempt to re-establish salmon in the heavily dammed Columbia River.

Then came the phone call.

Howard Tanner was sitting in his living room, having his usual pre-dinner cocktail. On the line was one of his old Western colleagues. He was calling to let Tanner know there was an anticipated surplus of coho eggs on the West Coast.

“It was just like the chair fell from under me,” Tanner remembers. “That night, I didn’t sleep much. I just sat there most of the night, thinking, What if … What if?”

The following morning, he was in his office watching the clock tick. With a three-hour difference between Michigan and the coast, he had to wait until midday to confirm the rumors that coho were available. The hearsay turned out to be true. Still, to get some of the eggs, he and his contacts in Oregon would have to navigate a gauntlet of bureaucracy. On top of that, they were working with an immovable biological deadline: If the surplus coho eggs were going to be viable for hatching and release back in Michigan, the whole plan would have to get every bureaucratic stamp in no more than six weeks. But, in a scenario Tanner can characterize only with words like “miracle,” the approvals came. Within a few weeks, one million coho salmon eggs were on a plane, bound for the Great Lakes. Tanner’s spectacular experiment was now underway.

Everything happened so fast that Tanner didn’t yet have money for things like fish food. And he didn’t know exactly where he was going to raise the fish once they hatched. Michigan’s hatchery system, which had been largely devoted to restoring lake trout, was 40 years out of date and in no shape to undertake a program of this size. He went to the legislature and asked for a million dollars—half of which he finally won by promising the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee that 150,000 of the salmon (and the promised economic boom) would land in the senator’s district. Tanner and his team then embarked on a tour of the state’s hatchery system, looking for just the right place to raise the fish. Eventually, the hatchery on the modest Platte River in Benzie Countywas chosen as the spot where the salmon would start their lives—and, theoretically, return to spawn—if everything went according to plan.

Tanner remembers the moment when the fish were finally ready to be Michigan Department of Natural Resourcesmynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-768×1152.jpg 768w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-683×1024.jpg 683w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-400×600.jpg 400w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-1140×1710.jpg 1140w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-970×1455.jpg 970w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-480×720.jpg 480w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b.jpg 1334w” data-src=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-200×300.jpg” data-sizes=”(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px” class=”alignright wp-image-153147 size-medium lazyloaded” src=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-200×300.jpg” sizes=”(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px” srcset=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-200×300.jpg 200w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-768×1152.jpg 768w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-683×1024.jpg 683w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-400×600.jpg 400w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-1140×1710.jpg 1140w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-970×1455.jpg 970w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b-480×720.jpg 480w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1b.jpg 1334w” style=”box-sizing: inherit; border-style: none; height: auto; max-width: 100%; float: right; margin: 12px 0px 24px 24px; opacity: 1; transition: opacity 400ms 0ms;”>released as one of the great moments of his career. It was April 2, 1966, and the now year-and-a-half-old coho were ready to enter the Platte River near Honor, Michigan. He had a special wooden speaker’s platform built for the event. Public officials offered words touting the benefits of the salmon program. The press took photos. Then, Arnell Engstrom, the Traverse City house representative whose vote had been critical in funding the salmon program, picked up a golden bucket and dumped the first batch into the Lake Michigan watershed. Tanner got his turn later in the afternoon on Bear Creek, a tributary of the Manistee, at a site just below Tippy Dam. Swimming with the current, the four-inch “smolts” would find their way to the open water in less than two days.

If everything went according to plan, the young coho would spend a year and a half in the open water before returning to the Platte River in the fall of 1967. And early indications suggested the fish would indeed find their way home. In the fall of 1966, the “Jack” salmon—a small class of precocious fish that spawn a year ahead of schedule—started showing up in Platte Bay, many in a form that astonished Tanner’s Western colleagues and foreshadowed a potentially colossal spawning run the following year. “On the coast, the Jack will maybe weigh a pound and a half or two pounds,” Tanner says. “Some of our fish were coming back at seven pounds. The guys from Oregon just shook their heads and said, ‘You’d better get ready. You’d better get ready.’ ”

Even today, what happened next still stands as the biggest “big fish” story in Great Lakes history. In late August 1967, tens of thousands of returning salmon suddenly announced their presence—this time without a formal speech. coho rushed into Platte Bay, and the fishermen followed—largely learning of the spectacle by word of mouth. Tanner has aerial photos from that fall showing tiny Platte Bay jammed with 3,000-plus boats, many of them canoes and little aluminum dinghies not suitable for open water. The boats formed a near-solid mass; some fishermen joked you could almost walk from boat to boat and never get wet. And in between, the fish were so thick, they were porpoising out of the water.

Tiny coastal towns like Honor, Empire and Frankfort suddenly found themselves overrun with tens of thousands of fishermen and wannabe fishermen. The tiny boat launches grew tails of cars and trailers that ran miles long. One man, Tanner remembers, even started a taxi service to ferry people back and forth. Another guy was selling hot dogs. Lures sold out, so people started renting lures. In September, Sports Illustrated even showed up to cover the event they dubbed a “boom on Lake Michigan.”

People who had never caught any fish of any size like these were catching five, and their tiny little boats were just full of salmon. Nobody had to embellish the stories. It was madness.

Michigan Department of Natural Resourcesmynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-768×512.jpg 768w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-1024×683.jpg 1024w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-752×501.jpg 752w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-1140×760.jpg 1140w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-970×647.jpg 970w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-480×320.jpg 480w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1.jpg 2000w” data-src=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-300×200.jpg” data-sizes=”(max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px” class=”aligncenter wp-image-153149 lazyloaded” src=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-300×200.jpg” sizes=”(max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px” srcset=”https://mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-300×200.jpg 300w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-768×512.jpg 768w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-1024×683.jpg 1024w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-752×501.jpg 752w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-1140×760.jpg 1140w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-970×647.jpg 970w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1-480×320.jpg 480w, mynorth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1115_TVM_feature1.jpg 2000w” style=”box-sizing: inherit; border-style: none; height: auto; max-width: 100%; display: block; margin: 24px auto; opacity: 1; transition: opacity 400ms 0ms;”>

The impacts of the salmon were huge and immediate. The value of riparian property in the surrounding area doubled almost instantly. Hotels and businesses sprouted up in Michigan’s new salmon country. Tiny Honor, Michigan, population 300, even christened itself the state’s new “Coho Capital.” The joyful hysteria was only briefly interrupted by tragedy on September 23, when the crush of mostly inexperienced anglers ignored small-craft warnings and found themselves overrun by a violent Lake Michigan storm. One hundred fifty boats were swamped; seven people drowned. But it hardly blunted the public’s appetite for salmon. Now, every coastal town’s bait shop and city hall were lobbying for the fish to be planted in the local stream. And the state delivered, stocking millions more coho across the rest of the Great Lakes in the following years, and furiously expanding the antiquated hatchery system to give the people what they wanted.

Doubling down on its great salmon experiment, the state added an even bigger trophy to the mix of Great Lakes fish the following year. The Chinook salmon was a Pacific species two to three times bigger than the coho, was cheaper to produce, and had a diet that consisted almost exclusively of the hated alewife. Within a few years of the new super-salmon hitting the open water, reeling in a 30-pounder became common. Fishermen loved it. Sunbathers loved the fact that alewives weren’t rotting on their beaches. And the fisheries department kept the big fish coming, flooding the Great Lakes with millions of coho and Chinook every year—the state’s economy, in turn, flooding with the windfalls of a world-class fishery that seemed to have been created overnight.

“It almost gave us the impression that the system was unlimited,” says Randy Claramunt, a fisheries research biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “The more salmon we put in, the more salmon we got out. Literally, we went from zero stocking to almost eight million a year in the 1980s, and we still had record-high harvest levels.”

By the mid-1980s, there was no arguing that Tanner’s original vision had indeed evolved into something worthy of the word “spectacular.” Just two decades after his coho fingerlings were released into the Platte River, the salmon had brought under control one of the area’s worst invaders, alewives. The sport-fishing industry, previously non-existent, was now valued in the billions of dollars. And people came from all over the country to fish the Great Lakes.

But the record catches and the new trickle-down salmon economy in which everyone seemed a winner weren’t telling the whole story. Though no one knew it at the time, the Lake Michigan fishery, the crown jewel of the lakes, was beginning to strain. The system did indeed have limits. And without warning, the once-mighty Chinook, the adopted king of Michigan waters, all but vanished almost as quickly as it appeared.

In a plot twist worthy of the theater, it was the demise of the fish everybody hated that brought down the fish everybody loved. The alewife—the invasive saltwater species that was best known for dying and rotting en masse on Michigan beaches—had given the Chinook salmon what seemed like an endless food supply. In fact, when the salmon program was first conceived, it was never done so as an alewife control program; the small invaders were so prolific that the idea that their populations could be significantly impacted by a predator seemed like wishful thinking.

In less than two decades, however, the Chinook began to chip away at the alewife’s dominance. In fact, by the early 1980s, alewife biomass in the Great Lakes stood at less than 20 percent of historic highs—largely because of salmon predation. With less to eat, the salmon being reeled in from the lakes started to get smaller and thinner. Then, in the mid-1980s, the already-stressed Chinook was overcome by an outbreak of a mysterious kidney disease, one that would later be linked to the high-density hatcheries unknowingly pushing out diseased fish to keep up with the public’s demand for salmon. Though the less-fished and more-adaptable coho toughed it out, the mighty Chinook soon disappeared from Lake Michigan.

More than a decade later, the story repeated itself in Lake Huron in an even more devastating fashion. Better rates of natural reproduction and heavy stocking led to a scenario in which the Chinook ate themselves out of an ecosystem. To make matters worse, new invasive species like the zebra and quagga mussels—both of which filtered plankton out of the lake—undermined the alewives’ own food supply. Faced with pressure from both the bottom and top of the food chain, the alewife population collapsed in the early 2000s, the Chinook population following close behind. Stories of big fish harvested from Lake Huron were quickly replaced by those of gas stations, hotels and restaurants going belly-up. There were even stories about charter boat fishermen moving west to try to start over on the Lake Michigan side, where salmon populations had started to rebound.

The salmon bust revealed new truths that had gradually become latent fundamentals of the salmon program. For one, if the state was going to maintain salmon as a top predator in the Great Lakes, it needed a more nuanced policy than raising as many fish as it could and dumping them into the water. It was also obvious now that the salmon economy had grown too big to fail: The experiment that Howard Tanner had started almost on a hunch had now evolved into a $7 billion economy and a vital tool for restoring balance to the largest freshwater system in the world. More importantly, though, the salmon program had inadvertently ushered in an era whereby the Great Lakes would now be a highly managed entity, and from which there was no turning back.

Long gone are the days where the only thing limiting the number of salmon the DNR puts in the Great Lakes is how many salmon the hatcheries can produce. Today’s approach to managing salmon has evolved into a highly nuanced, high-tech venture. You can see it on the boat that fisheries biologist Randy Claramunt takes out on Lake Michigan every August, when he heads out to do a census of the lake. One of his favorite tools: A hydroacoustic survey unit that allows him to count prey fish like the alewife, and in turn, figure out how many salmon the lake can support.

“Less than 15 years ago, it took two months to survey the entire lake,” Claramunt says. “Now we survey the entire lake in less than 10 days. It’s getting to the point where we can almost make annual changes to our salmon stocking rates based on how many prey fish are in the lake.”

One of Claramunt’s newest research frontiers is getting a better handle on how much natural salmon reproduction is happening in the system. To do that, the fisheries division is now tagging every Chinook salmon that it stocks in the Great Lakes; when an angler catches a tagged fish, he or she turns in its head at their local research station. Knowing how many wild fish are in Lake Michigan lets the fisheries department know how many more hatchery-raised fish they can afford to add to the mix without pushing things out of balance.

A strategy that involves so much less shooting in the dark is important to avoid periods of boom and bust like the Great Lakes have seen in the past. “The debate over salmon now is whether we can use them as a tool to control things like the alewife, or if they’re just a bomb waiting to go off,” Claramunt says. In particular, many biologists are now fearing the devastating collapse in Lake Huron could be soon be repeated in Lake Michigan. With some of the same biological forces now at work, many are surprised it hasn’t happened already. Zebra and quagga mussels, which undermine the food chain that all fish species depend on, are both abundant in Lake Michigan. Just as in Lake Huron, their pressure on smaller prey fish like the alewife has a direct effect on the Chinook. Indeed, Claramunt’s last two surveys of the lake, which revealed major declines in alewife reproduction, are cause for concern. “Three consecutive failures of prey fish reproduction almost always equates into a predator crash, which is exactly what we are managing to avoid,” he says.

Some argue, though, it’s not worth all the effort. Many would rather see the fisheries program reorient itself toward a focus on restoration of native species rather than deepening the lakes’ dependence on an introduced species like the salmon. From their perspective, the salmon have done their job: bringing the alewife population under control, and even conveniently pressing their own self-destruct button. Indeed, since the Chinook collapse in Lake Huron, some native species seem to have rebounded, though biologists say this may have more to do with the lack of alewives, which preys on the eggs and juveniles of native species, than the lack of Chinook.

“Some people would rather see us try to bring the lake trout back,” Randy Claramunt says. “But the question is, can a restored lake trout population control alewives? And before we have that debate, I wouldn’t want to eliminate a fishery that is providing both an economic and ecological benefit in hopes that the lake trout can do the job. As long as we’re going to see invasive species play a major role in shaping the ecosystem, we will have to have fish hatcheries and ways of manipulating the system to mitigate those impacts. And for the foreseeable future, salmon will likely be one of those tools.”

Howard Tanner, for one, is happy the salmon will keep coming—not just because it’s his legacy, but also because he feels like it’s good management. He still likes to debate such issues, and though long-retired, he still talks about the department’s new ideas for the salmon program in the plural first person, as in “we.” A lifelong fisherman, he still likes fishing for salmon. In fact, every summer, he still makes the pilgrimage to “the Big Lake” in hopes of reeling in another big Pacific fish. Thanks to him, it’s an adventure that’s just a short drive away. So we say, thank you, Howard Tanner.

Lou Blouin is a writer and public radio producer. He lives in Pittsburgh, where he covers environmental issues on public radio.



alan  skeoch
Sept. 9, 2020

This a ‘nub’.  We grew a  lot of nubs.  A  nub is  worthless.

Bob Root said  that farmers have to take risks all the time.  Sometimes the risks pay off but
a lot of times the risks do not.   Years ago Marjorie, my brother Eric and  I decided  to get
into real farming by raising cucumbers  for the Matthews Wells pickle factory in Guelph, Ontario.
Their pickles were sold under the Rose Brand label.  Many of  my readers must have  eaten
these pickles  at some point.

How  did  we get into the business?  My cousin Ted Freeman,  was at the
time in charge of  contracting farmers to grow cucumbers.  His mom and  dad, Frank and Lucinda
Freeman got a contract and we decided to give it a go  as well.  

Now just imagine that we were real farmers who needed  a source of income just to pay
the property taxes or to cover fertilizer costs or maybe just to pay off debtors who were
hounding  us.  Just imagine we needed the job.  (Forget the fact that Marjorie, Eric
and I had other jobs that paid our bills.   Imagine we were real young farmers trying
to make a  living.)

“Now  Alan, our pickle company really want gherkins…the  smallest cucumbers, maybe
2 to 3 inches long.”
“How will we be paid?”
“AT the end of the summer, maybe October, we will calculate what we owne you after  we
have measured and weighed you production.”
“You mean we put up the front end money?”
“Not entirely, Matthews Wells will give you the cucumber seeds.  After that it is  up
to you.”
“How do  our cucumbers get to the factory?”
“Once a  week a truck will pick up your produce as  long as the sacks are
placed at the corner  of the fifth line and #5 sidereal with your name.”

“And Alan do not send any nubs, crooks or oversized.  They are  worth nothing.”

“Three questions, Ted,  what is a nub?  What is a Crook?  How  big is an oversized cucumber?”

“Is that a  joke, Alan?”

It was  not a joke but I never told Ted.  Instead we got ready for our adventure  in real farming.
We bought a rather decrepit Farmal  A tractor for $400.   First big expense.  Then  we hired  George
Johnson to plow up our cucumber field.  He did a great job.  Unfortunately we did  not think  of
harrowing the upturned sod.   So our field was a little bumpy.  Then we got the seed bed  ready  by
hooking a single furrow plow to the tractor.  Dad was helpful although he thought we were goddamned

The land  was good.   Nothing had been growing here but twitch grass and timothy for more than two 
decades.  The soil was ready for cucumbers… to fight the bad weed seeds versus good seeds war.  We helped  by
weeding.  In no time at all  the cucumber vines were stretching like long garter snakes through
the field.   

Up the road,  at Uncle Frank and Aunt Lucida’s farm the cucumber  field was clean as a whistle.
A whole  bunch of school kids  were hired to pick  cucumbers every day.  “Get the gherkins!”
I think my uncle and aunt were amused in a kindly way.  “City people will learn something
about farming this summer.”   They sacked their production…gherkins mostly

We did  have some  gherkins but they were darn hard to find.  We sacked everything
in the mistaken belief that even the lowliest cucumber was worth something.  So we
bagged up quite a few of our specials…nubs, crooks and oversized.  Wow, we raced
through the field picking whatever we  could.  The cucumbers outraced us.   

Our sacked production looked good.   But turned out to be nearly worthless.  
“Alan, those nubs and crooks just go to the dump…along with the oversized.”

This  is a NUB.   WORTHLESS
This is an oversized cucumber.  WORTHLESS

These are Crooks.  WORTHLESS

Then we got a letter from Matthews Wells.   it ran something like this.  “Dear
Grower,  this has been a bumper year for cucumber growth.  More cucumbers
than we can handle.  Only need gherkins but even ghekins are oversupplied
so we have to cut the price paid to growers.”

“Look at this!  The  company has  cut the price in the middle of the season.
How could they do this?”
“That’s  the nature of  farming.  Prices fluctuate.   You never know  what you
will be paid  until the end of the season…same for grain, green beans, water melons,
cattle, sheep or hogs.  The only farmers that get a guaranteed price for their production
are the dairy farmers.”

“But we have put a lot of money into this cucumber  field.  We bought a tractor,
a plow, some sacks, fertilizer, and that old wood wheeled buggy to drag  the sacks
up the road.   Then there is our labour.  Surely our work is worth something.”

“We’ll just have to wait and see…come October we will know.  That is when
the checks  are sent out.:

YES… and sure as God has made little green apples, a check was sent
to us.   I think it was for $35.00.   I think the price of seed was taken off at the 
end of season.  Take price of seed  off this  check.

Three people, tractor, wagon buggy, sacks, fertilizer, land, … front end costs
were about 20  times the final  payment.  

A lesson learned and  never forgotten.  I am  sure our uncle and aunt were
amused…gently amused….not viciously amused.  They had also had their contract
reduced.  I am  not sure  if even they made a profit.  I  know it was the last
year any of  us  grew cucumbers.

Cousin Ted will correct this account.  He was embarrassed by our failure for
it reflected on him I imagine.   We  were a  joke and even laughed at ourselves.
Ted went on to build his own successful business.  He got out of the pickle  game.

alan skeoch
Sept. 9,2020

Springtime nearly here in our cucumber year  This is our transport system.  The wood wheeled Democrat hooked
to our lovely Formal A garden tractor..  In the background id a barn i was building atop our old barn foundation.
I hope you love the skill being applied.  The barn collapsed eventually.

This is  my cousin Ted Freeman  (right) and Eric  Skeoch .. handshake had meaning.   Ted took us through the pickle factory
before we signed the contract.

Dad and  I … picture  taken a little earlier when I was still in high school.  Dad
did not carry that stick to give me a rap on the ass.  He spent most of his time
laughing at our ignorance about farming.

P.S.  Perhaps  I should not write this postscript.  Eric got married that summer and
asked me to be best man.  I took a sack of our nubs, crooks and oversized to the
wedding feast at the Old Mill in Toronto.  Some people were offended.  I think
I know why now…but did not at the time.

P.P.S.  Worse happened.   I loved our little Farmal A tractor.  When winter
came I tucked it in the cedar hedge beside the back house.  When spring
came I discovered the block had cracked.  No one ever told me that
the tractor had no anti freeze.  I nearly cried.  The final blow as it were.

This is  a picture of a nub and an oversized cucumber.  And also  a picture of a very stupid  farmer.