Trying To Turn The Tide on The Telkwa
So I’m coming in to Telkwa, B.C. by way of the river, the Bulkley. I’ve got no car
(it’s back up at the put in) and no plan as to what to do. I was hoping maybe I
could hitch a ride. I had intended to get out at the camp take out and maybe beg a
ride back up. Like the fool that I am, I drifted on past the camp and rolled on in to
She’s not much, a handful or so of buildings, but one of them is a pub. A plan
starts to shape in my mind.
I go on in and it’s Friday night but a little too early for much action. I see a big
round table full of beefy looking Canadians (are there any other kind?) and I pull up
a chair and join. Conversation stops. I’m still in my waders, dripping wet, and I’ve
got my over-loaded vest on with my parrot in one pocket (handle is Oleander) and
my pocket dog (just call him Smolt if you would) in the other. Smolt says very
little, except for the occasional belch and tiny little dog farts that are very blue.
Oleander, on the other hand or the other pocket whatever, starts to cuss the table
out. I mean some really filthy stuff starts to pour out. I keep a little film can in my
number twenty pocket (I have them all numbered) and inside are rubber bands. I
pull one out and snap it on Oleander’s beak and so quiet is restored.
“I’m an American,” I start out, “from down south dontcha’ know.” They can’t
believe their eyes or their ears.
“Be damned,” one of them says.
“Yup, I said, ”need a lift back up to the Price Road Bridge where I put in.”
Silence now. I make a sign to the waitress and spin my hand around, signaling that
I want to buy a round for the table. The beer comes; I take a big pull, draining the
glass and signal for another. “Damn but that beer is good! I came all the way up
here for just such a drink. Tasty, mighty tasty,” I said.
Now there was a small smile here and there as they began to admire the balls of this
‘Murican who was apparently at ease with this whole situation. Plus they all had a
nice, fat beer in front of them and it would be unneighborly to say anything
untoward. Canadians are famous for being neighborly. My trick was working.
I learned this trick as an American soldier during the Vietnam War and we must
digress just a minute to explain.
All that follows is the plain and simple truth so help me God and does not need to
be embellished in any way. It will stand on its own.
I got in the war because I was hungry and I needed to get out of town. I was 23.
A student at U.C.L.A, I was completely and totally out of money. Not a cent was
left, and there was no hope of any. The landlady at my apartment building was
looking for me because my rent was two months over due and she had threatened
me with the sheriff.
I had this little romance with a graduate student in French literature. It started out
as simply saying hello to each other in French and it ended with an evening that
included some time on her couch. Unfortunately, I had misled this poor young lady
with my intentions. While I never used the words in any way, I guess I told her that
I loved her. It was a time in history when Eisenhower was President and Nikkita
Kruschev was the Soviet Premier.
The situation in the world was hard to describe but we students all thought that the
world would probably end in a nuclear holocaust in the next few days, maybe that
I told her that if the world ended, I hoped she would be in my arms so we could die
together. I guess that’s as good as saying I love you.
The problem with all this was that I didn’t love her because she was terribly ugly,
vastly overweight, and had every fault you can think of that a poor young lady
might have. I had tried, without succeeding, to look beyond her physical
shortcomings and attempted to be the man all women long for: a man who can see
the inner beauty of a woman, someone who will still be there for her long after the
bloom is off the rose. Such men are men of pure gold.
But I was a turd.
I tried, damn how I tried; I told myself over and over that beauty didn’t matter, that
I was a poet and poets could see things that no other human can even imagine.
Well, enough, the morning after the big night (shall I say the disaster?), I didn’t go
near her. She pounded on my door to see if I was all right but I wouldn’t answer.
I felt so small. A woman after me, no money , hungry, the sheriff on his way. It
was time to get out of Dodge. And I did. I joined the U.S. Army.
Fast forward now to a time when I’m stationed in Germany. I’m in a laundry truck
on my way to somewhere the place of which I didn’t have a clue.
Suddenly, the corporal in charge and driver of the truck turns up a couple of back
streets and pulls into a pub or a gasthaus as the Germans say.
“****, I said, we’ll get busted for this. The M.P.s will get us. They’ll see the truck
(the truck, painted olive drab with a huge white star on the doors was as obvious as
“Naw, the corporal says, no problem. They never come here. They never leave the
And so we went in. A huge round table was located in the middle and full of
German men; men in their forties and fifties, all of them had been in the Big One
and all were ex-Nazis.
My leader hands me a chair and grabs one for himself and we muscle are way into
the round table and order beers for everyone. Now the Germans seem to soften up
immediately. We were too young to have been in World War II and so we were not
really guilty of anything.
The corporal breaks into fluent German and soon has them all laughing. The beers
begin to pile up in front of us. My own German is very limited but I am not afraid
to use it. And old man (55) is seated next to me and I ask him, pointing to some
medals he has on his chest, “ Was ist das”
He tried to explain but he could see I didn’t understand. So then he pounded on his
leg and it made the sound of wood. He invited me to pound also and I did. Yes, it
Apparently the leg was shot off in combat and by an American soldier if I
understood him correctly. I’m somewhat offended now because it wasn’t my side
that invaded Poland or had murdered six million Jews. It was his side. And I’ll be
damned if I am going to feel guilty about his leg. Now he raises his glass of beer to
me and says, “Proust.” I repeat the toast with the same word and our glasses clink
Then I began to lie, why I don’t know and I have no idea where these next words
even came from. But I mentioned “mina mudder ist auf Chicago.” My mother
lives in Chicago. Then I said, “Auber minen fasser is kaput.” My father is dead.
He started at me with very fixed eyes.
I knew what he was thinking.
“Dinen fasser ist kaput?”
“Ya,” I say.
In der Amerikanisch Armee?”
“Ya,” I said again.
“Auf Japon, ya?” he asks staring very intently at me.
“Nine,” I replied. “Auf Deutchland.” It was here in Germany that he was killed.
I only knew the word for tank in German so I said, “Er vas ein Panzer.” I couldn’t
go any further so I grabbed a cigarette ask tray in front of us. There was a long
cigarette, only slightly burned in the tray. I pointed to the tray and said that it was
the panzer and then to the cigarette and said it was my father. Then I showed him
how the tank ran repeatedly over my father’s body until the cigarette was in shreds.
There was not a dry eye between us.
I raised my glass and said, “Proust.” Our glasses clinked and that is the end of this
As I sat at the big, round table with my Canadian friends, I thought about this
episode in my life, how bold I had been, what chances I had taken and was it OK
for me to lie to the gentleman.
About this time, two ladies walked in and came to the table. I asked if they would
take $20 each and return me to my truck. They were more than happy to do so.
The cab from Smithers would have cost $120 bucks. So it was a win, win
Just another memory in my life which I have shared with you. I hope you have
enjoyed the story. It’s all true except the part about my father. At the time, he was
alive and probably drunk in Chicago.
Classic post Bob and I know the pub well. I have it on the authority of a very pretty Telwa waitress that on Friday nights there are even local women in there sans garments. I am relieved that you did not have to suffer the shame of having to patronize said establishment during one of these ribald displays.
Speaking of that waitress, she could pour a drink like no other I have ever met. In fact, I still whisper her name in my sleep. Please forgive me for I do so digress.
Blawless, Speypages Brass Balls Laureate!
My wife and I are in tears laughing through every line in your story.
The folks who share a steelhead camp with you are indeed fortunate!
Thanks a bunch for some hillareous reading!!! Your text makes me understand, in spite of what appears to be a lean season, how empty my fishing life has been these past few years when I not have been able to do the Skeena pilgrimage.
It is not all that much about the fish and the scenery - it is more about all the absolute nutcases one meet in Smithers. Lovely blokes that makes one realize that one is part of a wild team rather than being an insulated mutated branch (Homo anadromis...) of the "man tree"!!!
PS. A few slots are still in circuit on Kharlovkas two opening weeks. Another character building place and time where H. anadromis loves to be... Drop me a line if at all keen! DS
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