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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Thank You for Driving a Prius....Here's Your Prize

Sunday, 15 March 2015

"Wireless" a story from the desk of DM Gillis

lost ironies

© dm gillis and lost ironies, 2012 -2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to dm gillis and lost ironies with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


by dm gillis

I had this to consider as I fell: that to be pushed from the eleventh floor of a slum hotel, in the end, is no different than being pushed from the eleventh floor of the Ritz-Carlton. The outcomes would differ very little.
*  *  *  *  *  *
It was 2:27 am on Wednesday.
I woke the way I sometimes do, like someone just pulled my trigger. Bang! Eyes open wide in the middle of the night, remembering something I forgot to do, like set a mousetrap or put my compost into the freezer.
But this time, I had a weird feeling that someone was standing on the threshold. I sat up and looked across the room at the sliver of light that comes in under the door from the main corridor. Shadows were moving there. Feet on the other side. Big square cop shoes. Shuffling back and forth. There was monosyllabic whispering, cavemanish mumblings.
I remained quiet.
Then there was a polite knock.
“Mr Plonk?” a voice said.
“Yes?” I replied.
That’s when the door came crashing down, and three men in dark suits invited themselves in. They stood inside the doorway and were just silhouettes at first. But as my eyes adjusted, I recognised one of them. We’d met the day before, in the express-line. He was a goon, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
“So, Mr Plonk,” said the smallest of the three. “This is your humble abode.”
I thought that was an odd thing to say, under the circumstances, and I said so –
“That’s an odd thing to say. Under the circumstances.”
“Maybe,” said the little guy, stepping further into the room. “But you are the sole resident of this room, no?”
“There’re some mice,” I said.
“Shut it,” said the guy I’d met before.
“That’s fine, Jerome,” said the little guy. “We want Mr Plonk to speak freely. This is his home, after all.”
Ha! His name was Jerome, the guy I’d met the day before. With a name like that his wife probably spanked him, and made him serve her all-woman bridge club petit fours while wearing high heels and a lace apron. He was probably raised in a third rate trailer park by a pair of illiterate born again Christian Walmart shoppin’ gun nuts who’d kept him sealed in a cardboard box for the first ten years of his life.
Yeah, I was harbouring some animosity toward Jerome. And just so you know it, I’m not normally the animosity harbouring kind. But this son of a syphilitic shrew was a real prick. And here’s how I know.
I was standing in front of him in the express-line at Whole Foods, where I normally don’t shop due to the haughty mania of their food supplement-crazed clientele. But they had organic apples on sale.
The Whole Foods buyers had probably ground some luckless local grower so far into the gravel on the price that now he had to reach up to scrape the mud off his boots. But who was I to judge? They were a steal at $1.75 a pound.
I was holding ten of them in my arms at the till, because I didn’t want to use a plastic bag, which I was afraid would end up swirling around forever in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. So when I put them down onto the cashier’s counter, Jerome, who was behind me, taps me on my shoulder. I look round and he points up at the sign that says eight items or less. Then he points at the apples and says –
“You got ten items there, chief.”
“No,” I say. “It’s one item. They’re all the same thing.”
“Uh-uh-uh,” he said, wagging a finger.
(That’s right, he gave me three “uhs” and wagged his finger – what an asshole.)
“They’d be one item if they were in a bag,” he continued. “They’re not, however, so each of them is an individual item. But my point is that there are ten of them. And this is a check-out for people with eight items of less.”
I looked at the carrot juice and organic gummy bears in his hand and figured I knew all I wanted to know about the guy. Then I asked –
“Would you like to go ahead of me?”
“Look,” he said. “This isn’t a purely self-centred reflection on my part. There are other people in line, besides me.” (Actually, there weren’t.) “And each one of them has observed a crucial social covenant that says that they will not try to slink by with ten items in a line designated for customers with eight items or less. Am I making myself clear?”
And as he said this, he elbowed the left side of his sports jacket back to reveal a handgun in a shoulder holster.
I raised my eyebrows. Shit, I mean, I almost pissed myself. I’d never really seen a gun up close, before. I grew up in Canada before Stephen Harper. It looked like something forged by trolls in the cesspit of a third rate trailer park.
“You the express-line police?” I said.
He smirked at that, and said, “Just remember this moment, apple boy.”
Apple boy. I’d been called worse. But never by a gun-toting wiener in a Whole Foods store. And since I figured John Mackey would probably like this creep, I paid for my apples and split. It’s a noble Darwinian impulse to recognise defeat, when it calls.
Later that day I sat at my desk, finishing my first soon to be unpublished novel. It was about Johnny Rialto, a loan shark with a glass eye, torn between the allure of his glamorous street existence and his desire to play the accordion on the Ed Sullivan Show. His girl was a dame named Wendy, who worked at the White Lunch and had a tattoo on her back that contained a curling esoteric text that, if deciphered, could change the world. But mostly, in her free time, she rolled her own cigarettes and played the harmonica on her fire escape over the alley.
I knew it would need editing. From its over sixteen hundred pages to a more manageable fourteen or fifteen hundred. But I was brave. I could face down any editor, and yet be generous in my defense of my masterwork. Besides, I’d written in a lot of kinky accordion sex for them to cut out without destroying the soul of the story.
As I typed the final epic chapter, a mysterious thing happened. Without cause, the printer next to my desk awoke from its deep binary sleep, and it began making the confused back and forth conveyor belt noises a printer makes just before it begins to spit out copy. But I hadn’t sent it anything to print. In fact, the machine was so new that I hadn’t even figured out how to use it.
Maybe it was the weed or maybe the codeine laced cough syrup I had imported from Mexico, but I’d inadvertently set it to wireless mode and couldn’t undo it. And since my vintage Radio Shack 486 PC needed a multi-pin serial bus cable to print, I’d just walked away.
The printer had printed a single page. Then it stopped, and looked impervious.
Was this how the technology worked? I asked myself. Was my wireless printer a slut for any signal that stroked its antenna?
It was a moot question, now. What it had printed when like this:
Government of Canada
CSIS Memorandum – Top Secret 

From: Vancouver (137)
Subject: Morton Teapole 

It has been confirmed that Morton Teapole is a Caucasian male of Christian-European descent, who has recently converted to Islam.
He resides at #516-159 East Hastings Vancouver, BC, and drives a 2005 blue Ford Focus with BC plate X11-112.
Morton Teapole has no known employment, and spends most of his time at the public library, viewing video on the internet, as documented through observation.
Further investigation has confirmed, through the tracking of his library card number, that Morton Teapole primarily views videos produced by terrorist organisations, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, and the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad, or Boko Haram.
He also has a Facebook page where he regularly posts terrorist messages and videos.
He attends mosque daily.
Though obviously radicalised, there is no evidence of illegal activity at this time. Indeed, the subject does not appear to possess the necessary intelligence to independently initiate terrorist activities dangerous to Canadian interests.
 It is believed by the author of this report, however, that the subject is open to coercion and may be easily persuaded by a Canadian Security Intelligence Service agent or operative to act as a puppet, partaking in false terrorist activities and the dissemination of false information essential to Canadian interests, and should, therefore, be recruited by CSIS to that end. 
- Report to follow –
I read the document five times. Sometimes the words moved round and looked like animals in the desert, but they always meant the same thing. My dauntless wireless printer had picked up a sinister transmission from a computer operated by the secret police.
I stood very still and listened. All around me the wood was rotting, dust motes were colliding. But I could otherwise hear nothing. They were out there, though, the bastards. Sending unwelcome communiqués through my walls, penetrating my brain. My God! It was mind control. The NSA, the Stasi and the KGB were already lurking, and now CSIS. I took a gulp of cough syrup, then sat in a corner on the floor. At some point I’d have to get to the telephone on my desk. And order pizza.
That was several hours before the door came crashing in, and Jerome and his pals entered my life in a big way.
*  *  *  *  *
Now I was sitting up in my bed as the smallest of them, let’s call him Gomez, sat down next to me and put his hand on my knee.
“So, Mr Plonk,” he said. “We have traced a fugitive wireless transmission to your room.”
He looked over at my desk, and said, “Is that your printer?”
“I’m thinking of getting a refund.”
“That’s very amusing, Mr Plonk,” Gomez said, rubbing my knee like a dirty old uncle. “But the transmission was sensitive and confidential. We’d like to have the copy your printer made.”
“Maybe it never made a copy.”
“Now, now, Mr Plonk….”
“I say we just waste the little freak now,” Jerome said.
“You’re just stoned on carrot juice and gummy bears,” I told him.
“Give me a reason to trust you, Mr Plonk,” Gomez said. “Give me the printed document, and maybe this will all turn out in your favour.”
By now the third of the three gorillas, who’ll remain nameless for obvious dramatic effect, had shimmied over to my desk and opened the top drawer. He pulled out a nitrous oxide inhaler and a sixty gram chunk of Himalayan yak hash. He sniffed it, and put it into his pocket.
“Fuck,” I said.
Then he pulled the document out, gave it a quick eye and handed it over to Gomez.
I was busted. I should have burned it. But some sick sense of duty to my fellow humanoids had prevented me.
“Any other copies?” Gomez said.
“A million of them,” I said. “Under my bed. I was planning to drop them from a plane. I was gonna go on the Oprah Channel, and do the cooking show circuit.”
“We’ll search the room after we’re finished here,” said Gomez. He sounded disappointed. “My work is difficult, you know.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yes. Now, thanks to your intransigence, there’s only one thing for us to do.”
The nameless agent opened the window over my desk and Jerome stepped forward, grabbing me by the collar of my Björk t-shirt.
“I’m really going to enjoy this,” he said.
In a moment, Jerome had me by the arms and the nameless agent by the feet. They were swinging me back and forth, trying achieve a critical momentum.
“You could have cooperated,” Gomez said over the vacillating commotion. “There’s always a place for the unconventional in our line of work. But you have to be able to play along, Mr Plonk.”
Then Jerome said, “On three.”
One two three, and wham! I missed the window and hit the desk and rolled onto the floor.
“Please concentrate on what you’re doing,” Gomez said to his men.
Jerome tore my t-shirt as he pulled me up off the floor. It had cost me the equivalent of $75 Canadian in Reykjavik. I wore it to bed every night. It was like sleeping with an Icelandic goddess with a recording contract.
The nameless agent cleared my desktop with a single sweep of his arm, and I was place there. I looked down, out of the open window, and gulped. The late night air was cool, but I could smell spring in it. It was April, after all. I thought of Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds dancing up a storm down there. The whole crack-addled neighbourhood recovering from its stupor just long enough to join in. I thought of how nice it would be to have a toke. The Himalayan yak the nameless one had swiped was 30% THC. That’d do me and Gene Kelly just fine right now.
Then with one swift kick, Jerome launched me out of the window.
It’s a wonderful thing, falling through space. You should try it, if you really must die. I thought of Morton Teapole all of the way down, wondering from whence he came and all of that. And as I looked into the windows of the many rooms I fell past, I witnessed the people enjoying the freedom of their intellectual squalor and knew they’d be safe from Gomez and Jerome. That, at least, was something.

Friday, 6 March 2015

World's Fastest Tow Truck ( from the BangShift website )

World’s Fastest Wrecker -The Story Of A Big Block Chevy Powered, Holmes 440 Equipped, Speed Machine

World’s Fastest Wrecker -The Story Of A Big Block Chevy Powered, Holmes 440 Equipped, Speed Machine
This is the kind of stuff that we love. Like literally love. Who out there knew that in 1979 the Ernest Holmes company decided to set the world’s closed course speed record for a wrecker and they chose to do it with a Chevy truck equipped with a 454 and one of the legendary Holmes 440 wrecker units on the back? We didn’t know anything about it until we were tipped off to the presence of such a record by Sean Mellon whose dad had a vital role in preserving this awesome and kind of odd piece of towing history. Obviously looking for a way to garner some publicity and make some headlines, someone at the company with enough executive horsepower must have suggest building some sort of “racing” wrecker. One can only imagine the cigarette smoke filled rooms, three beer lunches, and other creative sessions that ended up settling on the idea of building the fastest tow truck that anyone had ever seen before.
Holmes was not content to just make some radar runs with the thing, they wanted to go big and to do that they rented the Talladega Motor Speedway in Alabama to perform the speed runs. That long speedway was the right place for a company that was involved with stock car racing anyway and while we would have loved for it to be run at Bonneville, there’s a cool element to seeing a wrecker on a super speedway.
wrecker3Anyway, the meeting notes and company may be lost to history but the specs on the truck are not. Perhaps the coolest part of the whole adventure is the fact that there was ZERO exotica involved. This was a very mildly modified truck. Starting with a 454 powered 1970 C30, the company added a set of Hooker headers, an Accel ignition and plug wires, and a Holley intake manifold and that was all they did to the engine.Heck, they even left the stock Q-Jet on it!  The truck was optioned with a 3.21 gear set in the rear end and while there are no interior shots of the truck to indicate whether it was an automatic or a gear jammer, in the end it is all academic because either of those options would have put the high gear ratio at 1:1. There were not overdrives offered in these trucks back then. After making some high speed rips down public roads (with super vision from the Georgia state police) at speeds reported to be 130mph or more, a rear sway bar was added to keep the thing from trying to wreck at speeds which it was never intended to go. There was a light bar and whip antenna on top of the truck to make this a 100% legit effort. No trickery here, this was a truck that could go to work if needed.
The driver of the truck was  a retired stock car driver named Eddie Martin. We’re not sure what qualified him specifically but he got the nod and on wrecker4August 1, 1979 the Holmes team, Martin, and the great looking truck took to the course. He made some low speed runs to make sure things were in check and then he let ‘er rip. The good news is that the truck did what they hoped and made an average lap speed of 109mph and some change. According to Holmes this means that he would have been at 130 or better on the straights due to the speed differential on the corners. The bad news was that Martin pulled off the track after one lap due to the tires coming apart. Apparently the stock Michelins being used were not designed for the massive loads the heavy truck was putting on them in the banking. Now this is just me here, but I’d hazarding a guess that there were more than a couple flat footed runs on the truck before they called it quits but it sure sounds better for the PR literature, right?
After its glorious moment in the boiling Alabama sun, the truck was donated to the speedway for display at their International Motorsports Hall of Fame where it lived a comfortable life before being shoved outside to make way for newer exhibitions. After sitting out there for a decade or more, the truck was in rough shape and frankly it looked like its next stop would be the scrapyard but then a lucky break. Holmes was sold to Miller Industries and people from Miller wanted the truck saved and were able to negotiate a deal to get it out of there and into the safety of their hands.
Because Holmes was coming up on their 90th anniversary in 2006 and they wanted the truck to be a part of that it was sent to Twin Cities Wreckerwrecker5 Sales where the restoration took place and the old girl was set back to the shiny state you see here. It really is a handsome truck and because I am a freak for orange, it suits me just fine. Sean Mellon’s dad Kevin was instrumental in getting the resto job done and the truck got a new lease on life and made the rounds helping Holmes celebrate their 90th anniversary. After the truck had done its duty on that front it was sent to the International Towing and Recovery museum where it lives happily today.
NOW…I love this truck and I love this history so I have an idea. Being that I’m part owner of a land speed racing organization now it seems only natural that we find a way to break this record. It has to be done in the same fashion, with a legit wrecker that is capable of towing something. 109 is the official number, 130 the unofficial number, so we need to shoot for 140 anyway and we need to do it at the Ohio Mile. Who is in? Think we can get a wrecker company back on board with setting this record? I know people….hmmmm.



Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Massive ( Really Fucking Big ) Bomb Explosion in Syria, Mar 4 2015

News reports said that rebels then attacked the building....

I guess that meant they went looking for pieces of the building. 

I'm thinking that the "building" was a smoking crater.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Life and Work....No Work, No Life....or Some Such Rubbish

Burning slash from forestry activity

Working on pipe trench near the intake end.  Loggers slash fire smoke in background.

Prepping a heading shot up on the bench that will carry the pipe. 40 ton Cat rock truck below. Ex200 Hitachi on other side, getting another round ready to drill.

Pioneering through a rock cut to make way for the pipe that carries water from the intake to the powerhouse.

Digging out and surveying in the same patch of ground.

Just follow the dotted line

Largest machine on the claim, 870 Hitachi

Repairs to the drill and digging action in the background

Looking across to the Marty trench pipeline. Loggers felled and bucked in foreground and upper right hand side ( not for the power project ) if it wasn't'd see across Howe Sound to Lions Bay.

Prepping for blasting a trench for water carrying pipeline.

McNab Creek private hydro power up after a blast for the pipe trench. Ex200, Ex450, Ex470, 40 ton Cat truck.

870 Hitachi cleaning up after a trench blast

Working in the clouds...laying out the trench line after pioneering through a rock bluff.

Head in the clouds...digging out the pipe trench.
The loggers towing their old Madill yarder up the hill with a Cat rubber tire skidder.

Two hoe-drills working on a pipe trench, one getting serviced
Cat 336 Hybrid and Hitachi 870 on the Cascara section of pipeline...looking up McNab Creek valley.
Post blast inspection

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Kiewit Investigated by RCMP for "Culpable Homicide"....Corporate Murder. Sam Fitzpatrick story...6 years later. Feb 2015

Brian Fitzpatrick is fighting a 12 billion dollar a year corporate behemoth on his own....with no money, just grit and determination. If all goes according to plan, this David and Goliath battle will make Canadian labour law history. 
Now the RCMP have stepped in to help sort this out.

If you or someone you know has evidence regarding Sam's death on the Kiewit project at Toba/Montrose in 2009....please contact RCMP Cpl. Collin, the lead investigator. 250 218 0063

Culpable homicide is a specific offence in various jurisdictions within the Commonwealth of Nations which involves the illegal killing of a person either with or without an intention to kill depending upon how a particular jurisdiction has defined the offence.


 Story by Sam Cooper of the Province newspaper

Father of man killed on Vancouver Island job site pleased with RCMP investigation

Sam Fitzpatrick, 24, was crushed by a boulder in 2009

Father of man killed on Vancouver Island job site pleased with RCMP investigation

Brian Fitzpatrick says that after months of contact with the RCMP, the force recently informed him a fresh investigation is under way.

Photograph by: Ric Ernst , PROVINCE

Vancouver Island RCMP have reopened a high-profile workplace death case that occurred six years ago, investigating under a rarely prosecuted criminal law.
In February 2009, 24-year-old Sam Fitzpatrick was crushed to death by a large boulder while completing a work assignment on a Toba Inlet mountainside. Arlen Fitzpatrick, who worked on site, saw his older brother die.
Unsatisfied with the results of a WorkSafe B.C. probe, their father Brian Fitzpatrick has for years argued that the employer, Omaha-based construction giant Kiewit, is criminally responsible.
He said Thursday that after months of contact with the RCMP, the force recently informed him a fresh investigation is under way.
“This is just a matter of being pigheaded,” Fitzpatrick said.
“The lawyers told me, ‘Your son’s life isn’t worth enough.’
“They said it would be very difficult because the police didn’t take charge of this investigation from the start. Well, now they are looking at Sam’s death, and I was told this could be punishable by prison.”
Cpl. Darren Lagan confirmed the RCMP’s Island District General Investigation Section is probing Sam Fitzpatrick’s death under Bill C-45, a 2004 law stemming from a mining disaster.
The law can hold corporations and work supervisors criminally responsible for failing to ensure worker safety in cases of serious injury or death.
In Canada police rarely investigate Bill C-45 cases, experts say, as they must prove directors are guilty of horrific neglect that shows “wanton and reckless disregard” for the lives of workers.
“Our investigators are currently examining all available information and evidence relating to Samuel’s death,” said Staff-Sgt. Cliff Chastellaine.
“Should sufficient evidence be gathered to suggest a criminal act contributed to Samuel’s death, we will forward a report to Provincial Crown Counsel for their consideration.”
As The Province has reported, in 2011 the Workers’ Compensation Board fined Kiewit $250,000 for a number of safety violations in connection with the death, and another potentially lethal boulder accident on the Toba Inlet job site the previous day.
Kiewit appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal.
The tribunal confirmed Kiewit had “committed high risk violations with reckless disregard,” but said it was not proved Kiewit’s work site violations caused a boulder to hit and kill Sam Fitzpatrick. Kiewit’s fine was reduced to $90,000.
Brian Fitzpatrick has filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking for a judicial review of the tribunal’s ruling.
Kiewit has stated its procedures have been changed since Sam Fitzpatrick’s death “to prevent this type of tragic accident.”
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What a Great Send Off !!

I have no idea who this fella was...but now I wish I knew him. This obituary is great written art, lovingly constructed.


1939 - 2015
Unbelievably, Neil died in St. Mary's Hospital from the effects of cancer instead of dying in a blazing fireball on his motorcycle.
Neil was born in Lytton to Charles and Olga Bond. Tragically, his mother died when he was 18 months old and Neil was sent to live with his extended family, the Dumkas, in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. There he and his cousins lived a true prairie boy's life. They travelled to school in a horse drawn sledge in the winter, drove tractors as soon as they could reach the pedals and worked long hard hours to bring in the crops. It was here on the Canadian Prairies that he developed the resilience and self-reliance that served him so well throughout his life.
Neil eventually returned to British Columbia to live with his extended Bond family in Princeton and Penticton. At 16, sick and tired of being broke and desperately wanting a car, he left home to work on the Coquihalla Section of the Kettle Valley Railway. A few years later he brought his creative and technical skills into play as a technician for the Department of Fisheries on the Fraser and Nechako Rivers. The numerous encounters he had with the denizens of the rivers and forests became a rich source of material for his many hilarious stories.
Neil moved to Clearwater when an opportunity came up to haul logs as part of his father's trucking company. He put his mechanical skills to good use there and eventually obtained his Journeyman Heavy Duty Mechanics ticket while employed at Weyerhauser.
Neil was a resourceful man of many talents. He could shoot and dress a moose, cook it up for dinner and serve it with the best choice of wine. He could build a house, repair any vehicle, fix a broken fence, weld a basketball hoop, glue the sole back on your shoe, sew up a hole in your overalls and, like any good Canadian male, could make love in a canoe without capsizing.
Neil had a lifelong passion for anything with a motor. From an early age he owned Nortons, Triumphs, Yamahas, Hondas, many dirt bikes and too many cars.
For thirty years he put his talents to use at the Guest family cabin on Summit Lake near Prince George and helped out at the Guest Tree Farm in Mission.
Neil was predeceased by his brothers Tommy and Wayne, sister Diane, and by the light of his life, beloved and cherished daughter Rio Christina.
He is survived by the wife he adored, Mary Louise Guest, his amazed and always incredulous sisters-in-law, Beverly Guest and Barbara Marcellus, brothers Gordy and Buster Rutsatz, Billy Bond, sisters Carol Robertson and Gayle Martin, stepmother Betty Bond and special nieces Christina Lees, Ann Allen and Charlotte Mcquocodale.
He is survived by the wife he adored, Mary Louise Guest, his amazed and always incredulous sisters-in-law, Beverly Guest and Barbara Marcellus, brothers Gordy and Buster Rutsatz, Billy Bond, sisters Carol Robertson and Gayle Martin, stepmother Betty Bond and special nieces Christina Lees, Ann Allen and Charlotte Mcquocodale.
Neil was much loved by so many. He will be missed by his Red Mud and Salt Flat partner Ron, his dear Gibsons friends Nina, Roger and Madolyn, Denis and Evelyn, Victor, his friends in Clearwater, his mates in Australia, his Dumka, Bond and Rainey cousins, the Barnes family, his co-workers at SD 46 Maintenance Department, and everyone on Sargent Road where he was always available for a chat or instant practical help.
The family would like to thank Dr. Barbara Bienkowska who came from Prince George to provide outstanding care and steadfast support to Mary Lou and Neil during Neil's final week.
The funeral will be held at Gibsons United Church Monday, February 2nd at 3 p.m. followed by a reception at 4 p.m. at the Gibsons Public Market, formerly the Yacht Club.
A memorial will be held in Clearwater later next month.
Neil was an avid reader. In lieu of flowers please donate in his name to the Gibsons and District Library Foundation.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The History of the Sunshine Coast Railway

lost ironies

© dm gillis and lost ironies, 2012 -2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to dm gillis and lost ironies with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Railway Journal part 3

by dm gillis

Sechelt, BC 1888
This he had noticed when he first arrived, the strange way that sound traveled in the dense rain forest. The way a raven’s crackle would echo for miles. The way a woodpecker’s intermittent hammering would as well.

He was convinced now that that was the case with the blunt and increasingly emphatic hammering on the door of his cabin. Then there was the hollering of the priest from Sechelt. The confused and pointless shouting of a Christian extremist, misplaced in the northern wilds of North America. Those combined sounds must also be traveling through the rain soaked jungle of ancient pine, fir and cedar.

“Open up,” Father Breckenridge roared in his Belfast accent. “Brunel, you debauched heathen bastard. Let that young girl go. It’s Sunday. She should be in church.”
Leopold Liberty Brunel looked over at the woman sharing his bed. Nancy Pete was reading a book of poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley, ignoring the priest’s tantrum. She was sitting up with her lovely, firm breasts revealed, and her long black hair falling over her shoulders. The hot stove was nearby. She was seventeen, and their lovemaking the night before had been a wondrous rolling brawl that she had ultimately won. He wondered if the priest knew a single damn thing about women. Of course he didn’t. What a thought! All Breckenridge knew about was seminary buggery and sweaty confessional pedophilia.

“Go away, priest,” Leopold shouted. “This is a happy home. Your dogma is an anathema here.”
Nancy Pete smiled and turned a page.
“That ought to get him, eh?” Leopold whispered, then leaned over and kissed her ear.

“I’ve been sent here by Christ, Brunel,” Father Breckenridge shouted back through the locked door, “to protect this savage race of people from sin.”
“Then have the government stop feeding them whiskey,” Leopold yelled.  “Reinstate the Potlatch. Hell, go off to the Ottawa and have them stop giving the Indians blankets infected with smallpox. It’s not the Indians that need protection from sin. It’s the goddam politicians. Besides, mister priest, there’s a fine tradition of good Englishmen taking savage lovers throughout the colonies. I am purely doing my duty, and carrying on that tradition.”

“Am I your savage lover?” said Nancy Pete, looking at him over the top of her book. She was unapologetically Shishalh.
“When you really get going, you are,” Leopold said.
“We shall meet in town, Leopold Brunel,” Father Breckenridge said. He’d become calm now, in his own savage Catholic way. “You cannot avoid me.”
“This is amply obvious,” Leopold said. He threw off the covers and put his feet onto the cold cabin floor.

There was quiet now, no more cacophonic Christianity. The priest had gone, leaving behind just the sound of the forest shedding the most recent rain, in the form of drip-drops, the sound of Nancy Pete turning pages, and the most mysterious sound of all, the barely perceptible hiss of the rolling mist that almost always enveloped the cabin.

Leopold pulled on his long johns, put on his boots and walked over to the table where the surveyor’s map lay open. He drew out a wooden chair and sat down to study it once more. His design – his dream – was beginning to look like a railroad.
From Gibsons to Egmont. Along the coast and east from Garden Bay. Fifty-five miles over tough territory. To carry timber and passengers. Not bad for a beginner. It would modernize the region. Business would flow in. The people’s poverty would be eliminated. He’d be a hero.

A direct route over the peninsula was impossible. There were small forest company lines, moving logs to rivers and tidewater. But a direct and continuous line was out of the question. The surveyors and cartographers had said as much. The mountains, trees and deep valleys were the obstacles. Those and the land’s refusal to accommodate a straight line. The prairies would have been a better choice, but those had been sacrificed to the CPR. The GER, the Gibson Egmont Railway, was his alone. There were already depots built, twenty-three miles of track along the coast and an army of navvies camping along the way. He’d stun the world when it was done. He’d stun them even sooner if he could get the news out. Attract more investors. Every penny of his inheritance was gone, and his debts were enormous.
He said it out loud, “More investors.”

“Who, for example?” said Nancy Pete. She was dressing now.
“The lumber companies. The government. Surely they see the value in it.”
“They don’t surely see nothin’.”
“Am I a fool, then?” It was his self-doubting voice. She’d heard it before.
“No one knows that yet,” Nancy Pete said. She came and hugged him from behind, and kissed the top of his head. “It’s too early to say. Crazy men always secretly doubt themselves more than anyone else, until they do something magnificent. They thought your father was a fool. In the end, maybe he was.”

She meant the SS Great Eastern. Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s last great dream. It had been meant to sail from London to Australia, nonstop. It never did, and ended up laying telegraph cable. But before that there were the Great Western Railway, bridges, tunnels and a prefabricated hospital for the Crimean War.

The Great Eastern had given Isambard a stroke. But he’d worked right up to the end. Leopold would too, if it came to that.
“I need to get water for tea,” Nancy Pete said. She put on her coat. There was a well in the small yard.
“Yes, yes,” Leopold said, with a dismissive wave, looking at the map again.
“And I’m pregnant.”
He looked up from the map.
“How do you know?”
“I haven’t had a flow for two months.”
“But it’s impossible.”
“It happens every day,” she said. “It’s how we get little Indians. Though this one’ll be half a crazy Englishman.”
She opened the door and took a pail into the yard.
“Hey, babies,” he heard her say to the chickens as she exited.
This was the wrong time for a child.

Ha! A child! Imelda said, the voice of the ghost that had followed him since he was a young man. And shadowed his every move.
Leopold tried to ignore her.
A child will ruin everything. We didn’t begin this to be held back by a woman.
“It is becoming of a man to have children,” he said calmly, placing the illustration of the Fairbanks Morse twenty-three wheeled Mountain Master over the map. Locomotive 1022. The locomotive. The only truly tangible emblem of his success, so far — that anybody cared about. In the eye of the investors, it was more important than the miles of track laid. The colossus had already been manufactured to his specifications, and was on its way from Kingston. That and the custom passenger coach and caboose. He had agreements to lease the lumber cars and other rolling stock locally.

It’s fun to have a little Pocahontas, isn’t it.
“Please leave. You have no relevance to today’s undertakings.”
You’re already in hock for your toys, all that land you purchased.
“That’s business,” he said.
There was a consortium of mill and logging company owners putting up money, but not enough. They expected results. And then there were the banks, one in Victoria and one in Vancouver. The faces of the banker haunting his dreams.
A child will be another expense. I can make her not pregnant.
“You can’t,” he said. “You won’t.”
It would be easy.
“Leave her.” He needed to eat something and harness the horse to the trap, for the ride to the railhead.

You’ll have to marry her now. Don’t think she’ll accept anything less, her or her relations. And don’t forget how things are changing on the railroad. The first twenty-three miles of track were easy. But there’s a steep grade ahead, then the turn inland and your first deep gorge. The white navvies don’t like the Chinese, and the Chinese hate the whites. It’ll be hard to keep them separated when things get narrow.

It was true, he’d rather not have the Chinese in camp. But only the Chinese would set the black powder charges. Some had already died doing so. The Chinese were essential, but their presence was a complicating factor.
He went to the barn to harness the horse.
* * * * *
From the rail head, he rode the small steam mule that hauled rails and ties up the line. Now it was hauling telegraph poles and wire, as well. The telegraph would be a valuable source of income.
The first twenty-three miles was like a dream. Gibsons to Halfmoon Bay. The Gibsons, Roberts Creek and Sechelt depots were already built. The Halfmoon Bay depot was under construction.

There was an ocean on one side, most of the way, and steep cliffs and overhangs on the other. It was smooth and picturesque, a postcard of sound planning and investment.
But further up the line lay the first great challenge, where it would turn inland. A 3.4% grade with compensation for curvature. A spiral tunnel was an alternative, but there weren’t the funds. His Mountain Master would have to work hard, even with another engine to assist in the ascent. Then its brakes would work overtime on the descent.
Approaching Halfmoon Bay, he saw the navvies standing around and smoking. Something was wrong. When the mule finally stopped, his Foreman, Basil Duffy, greeted him. Duffy was a massive Scotsman with a razor sharp Scottish brogue.
“I thought we agreed the men would work Sundays,” Leopold said, as he stepped off the mule, “to speed things up. Why aren’t they working?”

“It’s the new rails,” said Duffy, walking up to Leopold. “They’re cracking when we hammer the spikes into the ties — at least some are. Too much carbon in the alloy, I’d estimate.”
“How many?” said Leopold. His belly sank.
“Five of the last ten we laid. I’m afraid to lay anymore. They certainly won’t take the weight of a train.”
“Then what?” Leopold said.
“It’s you railroad,” Duffy said. “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. But if a rail broke here and a train derailed, it could end up in the bay with all its passengers and freight.”

Leopold thought for a moment. Isambard would have a solution. Another shipment of rails was essential. But it would arrive only after a long, time consuming series of telegrams between him and the steel mill in Hamilton, ordering and making sure the next load was properly manufactured. Then there was the matter of a refund, and what to do with the current stockpile of defective rail. It could be a month or more of delay. He did the arithmetic in his head. It could mean ruin.
“Lay off the navvies,” he finally said. “I’ll arrange for them to receive a week’s pay. They can leave if they like, but I’ll feed the ones that remain in the camp until we’re back laying track.”
“There’ll be a riot, Mr Brunel,” Duffy said. “You know there will. Some of ‘em will leave the coast. But most’ll make it back to Sechelt and tear the place apart, after they’re done with Halfmoon Bay.”
“They must understand the situation. We can’t lay inferior track.”
“They understand a hard day’s work, grub and payday,” Duffy said. “And some whiskey, thrown in. That and the fact that they were guaranteed two to three year’s steady employment. After that there ain’t much they understand, at all. They’ll use that week’s pay to get terrible drunk. The local constabulary’s too small. It’s beyond them to handle this alone. I’d call in the RCMP, if I was you.”
Beyond them…. Duffy said it with unqualified Macbethian gravity in his voice, as was his ethnic right. He knew his navvies better Leopold, better than anyone. It sent a shiver through Brunel. But there was nothing for it.
“Just do it,” he said. “The locals will benefit from the railroad in the end. For now, they must suffer the inconvenience.”
For a moment, Duffy seemed to hold his ground. As though he might refuse the order. After all, what was he if not a high-rate navvy himself? Then he sighed deeply and kicked the gravel at his feet.
“I’ll announce it, but I won’t try and hold ‘em back. And after that, I’ll be leaving for Vancouver. You’ll have to finish this alone. There won’t be one goddam Foreman in the country or the continent that’ll work for you now. It’s a shame, though. This railroad was a dandy idea.”
Duffy grabbed an empty dynamite crate and stood up on it. Then he made the announcement.
“It’s bad news boys. And I guess some of you figured as much.”
His voice boomed but was slow, giving the English speaking Chinese Foreman time to translate.
“There ain’t no track for the time being. You all seen how it busted driving spikes. It could take more than a month….”
“More than a month?” came a voice from the crowd. “Wadda we do in the mean time?”
“You wait here. You’ll be fed and taken care of. You’ll get a week’s pay on top of what you’re already owed.”
“That means no pay after that until we get more track,” came another voice. “More than a month, you say. Probably longer, I say.”
“You won’t need no money. There’ll be grub, coffee and shelter for you here.”
“My children need money, though,” said a young man. His was the loudest voice yet. “I didn’t come to Canada to sit around waitin’ while they go hungry.”
“Then there’s work in Vancouver,” Duffy said. He had no stomach for this.
“Vancouver?” It was a shout, an accusation. “But we were promised work here.”
A man hollered, “I want my money now.”
The crowd yelled and shook their fists in agreement.
Now Leopold stepped forward and waved his hands for the men to be quiet. They went silent. Even the birdsong had disappeared.
“The money’s in the bank,” he said. “In Sechelt. It’s Sunday. I’ll have it for each and every one of you tomorrow.”
“You mean you get on mule, steam back to town and catch next boat to Vancouver.” This time it was the Chinese Foreman with his broken English, hated by the whites. But he’d incited them, all the same. The crowd was becoming violent. A rock shot past Leopold’s head.
“It’s not like that.” He couldn’t shout louder than the navvies.
“Says you,” a man shouted, followed by another rock. This one grazed Leopold’s forehead.
Meanwhile, Duffy had signaled the mule driver, using sign language to tell him to get ready for a quick escape. Then he grabbed Leopold, put him over his shoulder and began running. The engine was already moving backward, away from the uproar. Duffy sprinted as fast as a man his size could, and was helped up onto the mule’s platform by the fireman. He dropped Leopold onto the floor, as the locomotive gained speed, and began kicking navvies off on one side as the driver and fireman did the same on the other.
Soon they were moving too fast for the navvies to catch up.
“I think I just sold my soul to a wicked Englishman,” said the driver. “Ain’t no place on this coast for me now.”
Duffy pulled Leopold to his feet by the lapels of his coat.
“There’re foot paths,” he shouted over the steam engine. “They can follow the track. Them boys’ll be in town by tomorrow for sure. And they’ll be looking for you.”
“I can pay them then.”
“That’ll be just the start of your troubles.”

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