The Ballad of Old Phineas Tailbone

One time old Phieas Tailbone made home brew and pass out in the snow.  Police found him frozen stiff.  He had no pulse.  They put him in warehouse and start fire, thaw him out for doctor to examine his body next day.  But inside his guts was still warm, and his heart was pumping real slow.  Like an old Elan I guess.  Anyway, he thaw out little bit then wake up.  In the meantime, everybody at Phineas house been into his brewpot.  When police come and tell them old Phineas gone, they got another excuse to finish that brewpot off. 

 

In the meantime, Phineas thaw out and walk home.  He get to the door and he hear people crying.  He peek in the window and he see everybody there hugging and crying, and drinking his brewpot. Jimmy Gaslamp say Old Phineas good man.  Moses Swampy say Phineas best friend he ever had.  Alphonse Bonegrease say Phineas best trapper he ever knew.  When in fact Jimmy Gaslamp never talk to Phineas since 1944 after they have big fight over poker game.  Moses Swampy one time drive right past Phineas when Phineas kicker break down.  Alphonse him he stole Phineas first wife.  But old Phineas know only reason they cry is because of that homebrew he made. 

 

He walk right in there and start giving them hell.  “What the hell you talk about me for like I’m dead.”  Moses Swampy fall right off his chair.  Alphonse Bonegrease dropped to his knees and start saying Hail Mary about two hundred times.  Alphonse he grab handful of hot ashes and put it at Phineas feet.  Old time medicine say if you see ghost you test it by burn his feet.  Well Phineas was the real deal cause that hot coal burn hole in his new rubbers.  Now he’s really mad.  He go in his room and take out shotgun and shoot at the ceiling and clear everybody out.  Next thing that young police who put him in the warehouse come over and see Phineas there with a shotgun and dipper full of homebrew.  He didn’t know whether to chew bubble gum or wind his watch. 

 

Phineas got charged for illegal discharge of a firearm, and production of an illegal substance.  Not like his luck was bad enough.  They had big court for him and whole planeload of whitepeople fly into town for his court.  Edmonton Journal there too.  They wrote a story that said, “Man rises from the Dead in Frozen Arctic Town.”  Everybody testify at the trial.  Only one who didn’t was Alphonse cause he was up river staking muskrat house.

 

Anyway, big Judge give him six months probation.  Betty Snye was interpreter.  She tell Phineas something in his language.  Judge ask her, “Miss Snye, can you explain to the court what you told Mr. Tailbone.”  She said, “I told him they’re gonna babysit you for six months.”  The judge said, that’s not what probation is.  Can you try to explain to him what probation is.  So Betty this time tell him in his language, “You have to stay home for six months.”  Again the judge ask Betty, “can you explain to the court what you told Mr. Tailbone.”  Betty replied, “I told him he have to stay home for six months.”  Again judge refuse it.  Now Betty getting pissed off.  She been there all day and she know damn well her husband starving them kids at home.  She snap at Phineas in her language, grab her purse, and stomp out.  The judge yell to her, “Miss Snye can you please explain to the court what you told Mr. Tailbone please.”  She yell back, “I told him he can’t shoot at anybody for six months.”  And she slam the door.   That was story about old Phineas Tailbone.  Rabbits for sale.  Six bits apiece.  Call 2262.

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Bingo Bandits

One time me, Chubby, and Juggy Jones won ten thousand dollar radio bingo.  I was just going to go to Northern and buy a bag of potatoes with our last ten bucks when we heard on the radio about the bingo.  Juggy told me go get one Jackpot card instead.  My stomach said boiled potatoes for supper but I bought the card anyway. 

When I come back, Juggy was cutting out little squares of paper and making a black frame around each one with a felt marker.  Juggy did federal time and I knew he was up to something.  I said “what your doing?”  “Making sure we eat” Juggy replied.  “How?” I asked, “Just watch” he said.

We listened in to the bingo waiting for the jackpot game.  My cousin won letter X.  I phoned her right away to borrow twenty bucks but she already took her phone off the hook.  A little while later, the jackpot game came on.  Juggy had a pile of little squares beside our card.

As the caller called the numbers, Juggy would write the number on the piece of paper and glue it on the card.  Juggy must have done some forging in his time cause I couldn’t tell the real numbers from the fake ones.  I tried to stop him but Juggy said if he goes back to jail, he’s taking us with him.  “What you mean?” I asked him.  “You guys are in on this too you know.” he said.  “What?”  We didn’t even do nothing.  Juggy was not from around here, he’s some kinda Indian from down south.  He could be really friendly but he had a real danger about him too.  I never been to jail but I sure didn’t want to find out about it.  I already know how to carve anyway. 

When he bingoed, Juggy called in the bingo and they told us to come pick up our cash.  He told them Chubby was going to pick up the cash.  Chubby didn’t want to go and I didn’t blame him.  Juggy started getting real mad and swearing around.  He’s got about sixty home-made tattoos all over him and he could look real mean when he wants to.  He said we’re in too deep now and the best we can hope for a is a deuce less for forgery.  Chubby looked at me.  “It means we go to jail for two years.”  Chubby started crying.  I told Chubby I’ll go with him to pick up the money.

We were standing in line with my auntie to pick up our money.  She told Chubby, what’s wrong, you look worried.  He didn’t say anything.  I had butterflies in my guts too.  Everybody was congratulating us and asking us what we’re going to spend it on.  Of course my auntie had to rub it in by reminding me about that time I borrowed her husband’s scow to bring that German film crew out and never paid them for the boat.   

My hands started to shake when Ida handed me two handfuls of hundreds and fifties.  Chubby started to whimper like a little pup.  Then he blurted out.  “Juggy made us cheat.”  “What?” Ida said.  Eunice, the big cheese at bingos, and just as dangerous as Juggy, said “What the hell you’re talking about?”  “Juggy made us cheat” Chubby said between blubbers.  She just snatched that money and told Ida to call the cops.

All three of us were sitting in the police station with handcuffs on.  They brought me and Chubby in and we testified on tape and were let go.  As we passed by Juggy, he made a slicing motion across his throat.  I’m not too worried cause he’s not getting out till 2015.  The cops bought us cheeseburgers and cokes for being honest.  I like having money like anybody else but I’m honest too.  Especially with Chubby around.  One time me and Chubby…ah, I’ll tell you later.

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Queen of the Silver Dollar

While I was a student studying filmmaking, I worked as a “freelancer” to supplement my student loan.  I was a pretty good cameraman from videotaping skidoo races back home.  But I mostly worked on other student films for pizza and cigarettes.  I got a call one time to do some photography from this older lady.  She sounded like she just smoked a bale of tobacco and I wondered to myself if she was serious.  She said she wanted to place some nice photos in the personals.  The fifty bucks she offered sounded pretty good since I had about half an hour left of gas in my car and nothing in my fridge but baking soda.

I borrowed a camera and drove to her house.  The Harley flag in the window should have been an indication of the “professional” nature of the shoot.   “Misty” looked about seventy-five but she said she just turned fifty-two.  Her skin looked about three sizes too big.  She told me she wanted to place a photo in the personals because her last boyfriend went back to his wife.  I said no problem.  I asked her what kind of photos she wanted?  She said she was looking for a younger man and wanted to do some “risqué” type photos. 

I set up a light kit and made her bedroom look “intimate.”  I was hoping she was putting on a nice dress and a fox stole but my worst fears were realized when she came in looking like an old hooker.  She had enough makeup on to be an environmental hazard and her knobby knees did no justice to the tacky lingerie she was wearing.   Her white high heels were scuffed and one of the buckles was broken.  She reminded me of the song “Queen of the Silver Dollar” by Dr. Hook.  “Her jewels are made of rhinestone, and her shoes are scuffed and worn.”  At any rate, I sucked it up and reminded myself there was a job at hand.

I had her try some poses but she was going overboard with her sexuality and I was about to lose the precious bowl of oatmeal I’d eaten for breakfast.  At one point I asked her to just lay there and look innocently into the camera, hoping to salvage a shot.  Instead, she knelt on her knees and stuck her butt into the camera.  That’s it, I had enough.  I told her, “Look, you ain’t no spring chicken, and quite frankly, you look ridiculous.”  Instead of throwing her broken shoe at me, she looked somewhat relieved.  “Really?” she asked.  “What should I do?”  “Well” I said, “I’m in the imagination business.”  So I wrote her ad for her.

Mature female looking for male companion for outdoor adventures.  Have boat, truck, ATV, and snowmobile.  Please send pictures, nude and clothed (she insisted.)  She actually  didn’t have any of that stuff.  But she did have one of them loveseats that looks like a high heel shoe.  We sold it for two hundred and fifty bucks and bought a 1981 Chevy truck with bald tires and eight track stereo.  Then we traded her entire jewellery collection for a 1977 Honda three wheeler that we threw in the back of the truck.  We found a twelve foot aluminum boat with a six horse kicker that we traded her big screen TV for.  Then I found the jewel of jewels, a 1979 Twin Elan 250 skidoo.  It was seized and rusting in this old lady’s backyard.  We took it off her hands just to get rid of it.  Since I had one as a kid, I knew exactly what to do.  I stripped it and made a piston ring from a lard pail handle and sewed up the hood with snarewire. 

She called me back two weeks later saying she was beatin’ men from her door.  I think of her everytime I hear that song.  “I’m the man, who made a queen, of a simple country girl.”

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John Paul Rubberboot

We got a new cop in town one time.  He was from a really small town in Quebec somewhere.  His real name was John Paul Robert Booth.  But when he says it, it sounds like John Paul Robber Boot.  So they called him John Paul Rubber Boot.

John Paul talk kinda funny and some people laugh at him.  But me and Chubby like to “ang” around with John Paul and talk about “ockey.”  John Paul Rubber Boot was the stick boy for the Montreal Canadians from around the 1970’s for five years, when they used to clean up the Stanley Cup every year.  Me and Chubby been Montreal fans since the days we stayed in the hostel and we get pretty excited listening to John Paul’s stories about Rocket Richard, Evann Cornwhyyea, and Guy The Flour.  We sit in Effie’s Café, drink coffee, and talk about “ockey” for two, three hours a day.    One time we were all sitting at Old Steamboat’s General Store whe got so tied up in the 1972 playoffs that Harvey Dog Pot walk out of with a bail of dried muskrats, right in front of us.  He even walk into Effie’s and eat a piece of pie. 

John Paul stick around all winter and pretty soon we’re all “anging” around John Paul’s place and drink his beer and listen to his stories.  He said one time after they won the Stanley Cup, a woman in a biniki jumped out of a cake and fell right on top of Toe Blake.

Before long all the outlaws are coming around too, but we don’t let them have any beer cause they sure as hell gonna fight after one or two for sure. 

John Paul like to talk “wit” his “ands” and boy just like watching a show in Old Steamboat’s theatre.  When he tell us a story he stand up when he get excited and give us play by play of how Jean Bellevue deke out Gordie Howe and snap a wrist shot to the top shelf against Detroit Red Wings.  Boy me and Chubby is just about crying we’re so happy to hear “is” stories. 

We get word John Paul is being transferred to another town next month.  We give him a surprise goodbye party.  We lock him up in jail and bring in a couple of cases of beer.  We all sit around and he tell us story after story about all our hockey heroes.  John Paul is getting drunk and he tell us he’s going to miss us.  We let him out and he give us all a big hug.

It’s been six months since John Paul Rubber Boot left our town and the jail is getting filled up again.  When John Paul was around all the criminals were so busy listening to “is” stories that they forgot to go commit a crime.  But now they’re bored again and getting into trouble.  We start a petition to bring John Paul Rubber Boot back to our town but big shot RCMP don’t listen to little people like me, Chubby, Harvey, and Amos Boots.  I never thought I’d ever like RCMP let alone sit around and talk with them.  But I guess they’re just like you and I.  They sure like hockey anyway. 

We finally got a new RCMP. His name is Buphinder Singe, he is one of them other kind of Indians.  He’s kind of shy and don’t come around for coffee at Effie’s Café or stay more than a minute at Old Steamboat’s General Store.  I was waiting in the dentist office the other day and I read a little about India.  I buy some currey from Steamboat and I get Effie to make curried moosenose.  We bring it over to Constable Singh at his office.  Boy, he don’t know what the hell to make of the situation.  Here he was being offered a mooses nose cooked in curry.  He is hesitant to eat it but after a couple of bites, he’s licking his fingers in no time.  He tell us the only other Indians he’s ever seen was in Western movies where they scalp people and burn them out.  So he admit he was kind scared at first.  Harvey Dogpot freak him out by jumping up and doing war whoop.  But we all laugh like hell at him.  He invite us back to his place for a beer later.  We eat snatchos and drink beer all night while he tell us about growing up in India.  He say they used to go to school on an elephant.  Boy I laugh like hell.  Then he bring out a sitar, a funny looking guitar, and start to sing “Indian Blues.”  We all wobble home a few hours later singing one of the Indian blues songs.  Maybe the jail not going to be so full anymore.

 

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One is one too many

One time me and Chubby went hunting rabbits with a boat.  We took a wrong turn and ran out of gas.  We paddled to someone’s cabin.  It was unlocked and we went in to lie down.  There was a real kinda sweet smell coming from the bottom cupboard.  I opened it and there was a five gallon plastic pail with a plastic bag over it.  I pulled off the bag and inside the pail was some kind of white colored liquid with raisins and prunes floating on top.  And it looked like it was boiling.  I showed Chubby and he got really excited.  He said it was home brew.

I always heard about home brew when I was growing up but I never saw it.  I wanted to try it so I dipped a cup in and took a sip.  It tasted like yeast and was warm.  I didn’t see why people would drink it.  But Chubby on the other hand, grew up mixing a  brew pot for his granny.  He took one sip and said “it’s ready.”  He found a big blue enamal cup and dipped it in and took a good swig.  I made some tea.

As I was drinking my tea and trying figure out how to use the bush radio, Chubby who’s usually pretty quiet and easy to boss around, starting talking back to me.  I told him to make soup and he told me to “go to hell.”  “What” I asked.  “You heard me.”  I looked at the brewpot and could see it was down about two inches.  Like a highwater mark.  And there was a ring of flakey stuff around his mouth.  Chubby’s usually a pretty smiley guy but man he has a nasty look on his face.

I finally got the radio going and tried calling.  “Anyone hear me?”  Someone answered and I got excited.  I was telling them our story about getting lost when Chubby ripped the microphone from my hands.  “Hey!”  I yelled at him.  “What the hell you do that for?”

 “I’m gonna pound you up” he said.  “What?”  “I’m gonna pound you up” he replied.  I was getting tired of him so I told him to sleep it off.  

Chubby is pretty clumsy when he’s sober, never mind drunk on home brew.  He tried to throw a punch at me but I stepped aside and he fell into the wood box.  They don’t call him Chubby for nothing.  You ever try lift up somebody who’s drunk?  They call it “dead weight” for a reason.  I finally got him to sit in his chair.

I got back on the radio and told who ever was on the other end my story.  All that time Chubby was talking about that donkey we shot.  Blaming me.  Then accusing me of trying to sell him off and collect the reward.  I had enough so I was going to throw that brew pot out.  But Chubby had his big cup in there and was downing it like water.  I told him “Enough now.”  I never heard Chubby swear in my life but he was using that “F” word like it was cheap.  I tried to grab his cup but he got really strong.  He was trying take another drink and I was twisting his wrist.  He got one good gulp in before I took the mug away.  Then he started crying.

I don’t usually do to good around even kids that are crying.  But Chubby?  He starting going on and on about what I did to him in grade six.  Then he started talking about that time in grade nine what’s his name stole his first girl friend.  And blaming me for it cause that guy was my cousin.  He just kept finding reasons to cry.  But I had enough when he started talking about treaties.  He finally passed out.  I got thru to the RCMP and they picked us up the next day.  But I got charged for the homebrew cause I made the call.  I still have over twenty hours to do on my community service.  I might go hunt rabbits for elders.  But only if Chubby comes with me.

 

 

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Guide for hire

When I was living in Inuvik, I got a call from a German film crew that wanted to do one days filming in the Mackenzie Delta.  They were looking for footage of muskrats, ducks, and moose.  I told them no problem, I know that whole delta like the back of my hand.  If you look at a map of the delta, there are about ten thousand lakes, creeks, and rivers. 

Since I didn’t have my own boat, I borrowed a 32-foot scow with a 33-horse Evinrude kicker.  We were only going for afternoon so I only put ten bucks in the kicker tank.  The crew arrived at the river with all their camera equipment.  I packed my grub box with a two cans of klik, a tea pot, pilot biscuits, and dried apples.  The director showed me on the map where he wanted to go; a place with lots of big lakes where there might be moose.  I told him I don’t need map, map’s in my head.  I crumpled it up and threw it in the river.

Who ever owned that scow forgot to pound the nails back in last spring because I had about half a foot of water in the back by the time I finished my first cigarette.  I had to get them guys to take turns bailing with a lard pail.  I couldn’t understand them but I think they were arguing about who’s turn it was next.  I just kept my eye on where I was going.  I turned left a the first creek, then right, then left again, then left, then right, then I hit a sandbar in a big dry lake.  They must have moved that other creek cause that’s where I was going.  The director kept asking me to look at the map but me I don’t get lost in the delta.  I might get turned around but never lost. 

It was middle of June and I forgot one thing, Mosquito Dope.  It was hot enough to take your tee-shirt off and there was no wind.  As soon as we stopped, I could hear the buzzing.  Then they attacked.  But we had to get the hell out of there or we were literally going to be eaten alive. 

One thing about scows, the flat bottom sticks to mud, hard.  We hit the sandbar around one and it was three-thirty when we pulled it off the bottom.  By this time the director cold barely see cause his eyes were swollen from mosquito bites.  Anyway, he was yelling at me in English first then he started yelling at me in German.

We got out and he said, that’s it, take me back to town.  We ran out of gas around midnight.  The two other guys were holding him back from attacking me.  He was yelling in German but I couldn’t understand him.  But it’s not my fault I told them.  Global warming must have dried them creeks up cause I couldn’t find my way out.  I could hear town but couldn’t find the creek out.  So we started padding.  We ran out of grub next morning.  The sound of town was getting quieter and quieter.  I reassured them I knew we were close to town.  By eight that night, the director jumped out of the boat, jabbering to himself and German and swimming away from us.  I had to hit him over the head with a paddle to smarten him up.

We dragged him back in the scow and drifted till the next day.  I brought along a .303 and good thing cause I saw a squaw duck on the bank.  I aimed and hit him dead on.  All there was was  a puff of feathers and blood.  Even after about a minute, little bits of duck were still falling from the sky.  So much for duck soup.  We eventually got picked up at Shallow Bay.  I read in the news that the director was admitted to the nut house.  But not my fault, global warming is really buggering up our creeks.  Can’t even find my way anymore.

 

 

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A Bunch of Bull

When I was living in Vancouver, I took a part time job on a farm. The old German couple I was working for had a bunch of animals including some cow and steers.  They were all inside a fence over a fifty-acre field. 

I arrived one morning to see Olav in the field sitting on a stool behind one of the cows.  It looked like he was listening to something under the cow’s tail.  “He’s stuck” he said.  “Who’s stuck?” I asked.  “The calf,” he replied.  Then he pulled his arm out of the cow’s ass.  I dropped to my knees laughing.  I’d never seen anything so darn funny.  “You better try, you’re stronger.”  Try what?” I asked getting up.  “Try pulling him out.”  “I didn’t sign up for this,” I said.  “I thought you just wanted me to do odd jobs.” Well, this is as odd as it gets I guess” he shot back.  I could smell hot biscuits from the kitchen and I wasn’t about to go back to my apartment and eat another bowl of Ichiban soup.  “What do I do?” I asked him.  “Reach in and pull on his legs.  Just roll up your sleeves and stick your arm in, you’ll feel his legs.” 

I could barely stand up from laughing and feeling ticklish.   Man, I’ve done some odd jobs but this took the cake.  I couldn’t bring myself to put my arm in there though, till his wife yelled from the house, “Olav, do you want sausages or liver for lunch.”  “Sausages” Olav replied.  I closed my eyes and shoved my hand inside that poor cow.  Sure enough, I felt a pair of hooves which I started pulling on.  I yanked on them legs for a good ten minutes.  Then I pulled my arm out in frustration.  “Let’s come back to her later” Olav said.  “What time is it?” he asked.”  I looked at my watch but it was gone.  I looked at the cow and Olav just shook his head. 

We went and cleaned out the barn and came back an hour later.  The cow had dropped her calf and my watch was on the its hind leg when we came back.  During lunch, Olav saw one of his cows kicking.  “Quick, the brown one, she’s trying to drop her calf but his leg is stuck, hurry.”  I guess he was diabetic and couldn’t work too hard or too long.  So I wrapped up my lunch and put it in my pocket and ran out to the field to save another calf.  I found the cow and did what had to be done.  I felt around but couldn’t feel anything.  Then it looked up at me.

I remembered from watching Sesame Street that cows have no horns but steers do.  This one must have been a steer cause it had horns about two feel long sticking out from either side of its head.  Then I heard Olav shouting something about the other brown one.  I could see the steer’s nostrils starting to flare and I knew that if I didn’t get my arm out, I was going for a bull ride.  I pulled my arm out as slow as I could, trying not to spook it.  But I could feel it tightening around me.  Just before I got my elbow out, he started kicking his hooves like he was ready to bolt.  Just as I tugged on my arm, he took off running.  

I read later that steers can run thirty-five miles an hour.  My personal best was about fifteen but I beat it that day by twenty miles and hour.  First we ran down one side of the fence and up the other.  By that time a few cars had stopped and were either laughing or trying to help.  I could see Olav about a hundred yards to my left holding a shovel like a baseball bat.  So I pulled on something, maybe the kidneys, and sure enough it turned left, right toward Olav.  As we ran past Olav, he konked the steer right in the nose, dropping him like a sack of hammers.  He loosened his grip and I pulled my arm out.  

I lost one side of my rubber boots and started looking for it.  When I tell this story people tell me it sounds like a lot of bull.  But I wouldn’t intentionally pull anyone’s leg, would I?

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