Category Archives: Musings

Stories and book, tv and movie reviews

First Nations Books

First Nations Books

Here are some books that are valuable for anyone wanting to know more about First Nations and the history and process of colonization within a land. That land might be Newfoundland, Labrador, Canada as well as others around the world.

The peoples of such internal colonization is what George Manuel defined as “the Fourth World”. I’ve been thinking about that since hearing that Arthur Manuel died last week. He was a chief and political activist in British Columbia. He was also the son of George Manuel, author of The Fourth World.

I read The Fourth World at university. Wow, I thought then, and still do whenever I reread parts of it. I still have my original copy. It’s moved with me many times over four decades.Books and cat

Going through my bookshelves for it, I saw other books that I consider indispensable for thinking about First Nations and Canada.  Make a list then, I thought. So this is its beginning. I will add to it as I think of more. I have put in links for purchase when I could. Otherwise, libraries and used book stores are your best bet.

The Books

prison of grass cover Amazon linkPrison of Grass: Canada from the native point of view, Howard Adams, General Publishing 1975 & 1989

"With the publication of this eloquent, passionate and scholarly work, no Canadian can ever again boast that this is a country free from the cancer of racism." - from cover blurb by Pierre Berton. (Click image for Amazon link)
surviving as indians amazon linkSurviving as Indians: The challenge of self-government, Menno Boldt, U of Toronto 1993

Government-First Nations history and how self-government might work, written at a time when band self-government agreements were sought by the federal government. (Click image for Amazon link)
Son of the Morning Star Amazon linkSon of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn, Evan S. Connell, North Point Press 1984.

A novel, and a history of a big moment in Euro-American and First Nation "contact" - the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn. Facts and interpretation, in lyrical writing that carries you along in the action. (Click image for Amazon link)
Son of the Morning Star DVD eBay linkSon of the Morning Star (DVD)

The 1991 movie based on Evan Connell's book stars Gary Cole and Rosanna Arquette. I didn't think a movie could do justice to the book, but this does. (Click image for eBay listings)
First Nations in 21st century Amazon linkFirst Nations in the Twenty-First Century, James S. Frideres, Oxford U. Press 2011.

"...legacy of residential schools;
intergenerational trauma; Aboriginal languages and culture; health and well-being on reserves; self-government and federal responsibility...(Click image for Amazon link)
Grassy Narrows link to AmazonGrassy Narrows, George Hutchison and Dick Wallace, Van Nostrand Reinhold 1977

Hutchison and Wallace covered the Grassy Narrows, Ontario mercury poisoning story for the London Free Press. My mother bought me this book. The story and images were horrifying then, and they still are 40 years later. (Click image for Amazon link.)
Amazon link for The Inconvenient IndianThe Inconvenient Indian: A curious account of native people in North America, Thomas King, Anchor Canada 2013

Anything written by Thomas King is worth reading, but this look at 'being Indian' - historically and in modern Canadian society - is especially valuable. (Click image for Amazon link.)
unsettling canada amazon linkUnsettling Canada: A national wake-up call, Arthur Manuel, Between the Lines 2015

"...chronicles the modern struggle for Indigenous rights covering fifty years of struggle..."(Click image for Amazon link.)
cover the fourth world book by george manuelThe Fourth World, George Manuel and Michael Posluns, Don Mills: Collier Macmillan Canada 1974

Colonization within lands and the connections between "Fourth World" peoples. Available in libraries and, if you're lucky, somewhere for sale. (I couldn't find it online at a reasonable price.)
Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A history of Indian-White relations in Canada, J. R. Miller, U of Toronto Press 2000 3rd ed.

I asked Dr. Gordon Inglis, of the Anthropology Dept. at Memorial University, what would be good texts for an introductory class on indigenous issues. This was one he recommended. He was right. (Click image for Amazon link.)
Big Chief Elizabeth Amazon linkBig Chief Elizabeth: How England's adventurers gambled and won the New World, Giles Milton, Hodder and Stoughton 2000

Queen Elizabeth I's 16th century adventurers in North America. The early colonies, and also Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his "discovery" of an already fairly crowded St. John's harbour. (Click image for Amazon link)
We Were Not The Savages Amazon linkWe Were Not The Savages: Collision between European and Native American civilizations, Daniel N. Paul, Halifax: Fernwood 2006

A history of European-First Nations relations, from before contact to the late 20th century. The focus is on Atlantic Canada from the point of view of the Mi'kmaq. (Click image for Amazon link)
People of Terra Nullius link to AmazonPeople of Terra Nullius, Boyce Richardson, Douglas & McIntyre 1993

"Terra Nullius, a land that is empty of people. This is a legal concept used by Europeans when they first arrived in North America." (Click image for Amazon link)
Lumbee Indian Histories link to AmazonLumbee Indian Histories: Race, ethnicity, and Indian identity in the Southern United States, Gerald Sider, Cambridge U. P. 1993

A fascinating look at definitions of identity. The Lumbee of North Carolina fought for many, many years for recognition as an indigenous people. Dr. Sider also has spent a lot of time in Newfoundland. (Click image for Amazon link.)
Nitassinan link to AmazonNitassinan: The Innu struggle to reclaim their homeland, Marie Wadden, Douglas & McIntyre 1991

The story of the Labrador Innu, internally colonized perhaps doubly. First by the Dominion of Newfoundland, then by Canada. (Click image for Amazon link)
Where the Pavement Ends link to AmazonWhere The Pavement Ends: Canada's aboriginal recovery movement and the urgent need for reconciliation, Marie Wadden, Douglas & McIntyre 2009.

Like The Dispossessed, a journalist travels around First Nations communities. The stories told are both sad and hopeful, personal and political. (Click image for Amazon link)
Stolen Continents: Conquest and resistance in the Americas, Ronald Wright, Penguin Canada 1992

First subtitled 'The "New World" through Indian eyes since 1492', it is the story of contact and its aftermath in North, Central and South America told from the perspective of the indigenous peoples. (Click image for Amazon link)
The Dispossessed link to AmazonThe Dispossessed: Life and death in native Canada, Geoffrey York, Vintage UK 1989

This was the other book that Dr. Gordon Inglis suggested as a Native Issues course text. Some students said it was depressing. Yep, it is. And what's more depressing is that, all these years later, it still reads like current news. (Click image for Amazon link)
People of the Pines link to AmazonPeople of the Pines: The Warriors and the legacy of Oka, Geoffrey York and Loreen Pindera, Little, Brown & Co. 1991

The standoff in the summer of 1990 at Oka and Kahnawake told by two reporters who covered it. (Click image for Amazon link)

Dan Patch

Dan Patch was a harness racing horse, a pacer. He was crazy good, they said. 110 years ago, he was the best pacer ever seen. He was a Harness racing Dan Patch Breeder_and_sportsman_mag_1911_wikicommonshuge celebrity in the US, the first multi-million dollar sports superstar.

His story is told in Charles Leerhsen’s 2010 book Crazy Good. You will enjoy it even if you know nothing about harness racing. It’s a story of triumph over adversity, of middle America at the dawn of the automobile age, and of the hucksterism that Americans do so well.

Crazy Good: The true story of Dan Patch - Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

Dan Patch was born in Oxford, Indiana in 1896 to Zelica, a mare obscure in Standardbred breeding history. His sire, Joe Patchen, was well known for both his speed and his bad temper.

At birth, Dan Patch’s prospects seemed zero. His left rear leg was misshapen. His owner Dan Messner was advised to put him down. But he didn’t. For the history of harness racing, and for Dan Patch, that was a very wise decision. Dan Patch learned to walk, then run.

Dan was a natural. He loved to race and he loved audiences. As his star rose, other parties became interested in him. With a new owner, he went to the big time. That’s when the hucksterism started. Not by Dan Patch, who simply continued to run the very best he could, but by Marion W. Savage, his new owner. At Savage’s International Stock Food Company farm near Minneapolis, Dan Patch lived out the rest of his days. When he wasn’t travelling the country in his own rail car.

T-Eaton-Co- photo Dan_Patch_wikicommonsDan Patch never lost a race. Horse owners became unwilling to enter their horses against him. So Savage promoted exhibition races with Dan running only against the clock. Dan set a record in September 1906 at the Minnesota State Fair with a mile in 1:55. That time was not officially recognized because a windshield was used. Dan Patch’s official mile record was 1:55:¼ set in Lexington KY in 1905. His unofficial record was not matched until 1938 when Billy Direct paced a mile in 1:55. It wasn’t beaten until 1960.

Dan Patch Two Step (for piano)

Dan Patch coffee can from ctpost.com
from ctpost.com March 22 2012

Savage was an odd man, very successful at selling himself and products. However much he may or may not have known about horses, he knew a lot about marketing. And market Dan Patch, he did. Dan’s image and name were on livestock feed, tobacco, a railway and everything in between. He even gets a mention in The Music Man.

For horse people, Dan Patch didn’t need a front man. His talent spoke for itself. But Savage’s marketing of Dan and racing made both better known to a public much larger than harness racing fans.

Dan Patch died July 11, 1916. Marion W. Savage died one day later. By that time, harness racing had ceased being a major national sport.Dan-Patch-Line-MN-Bachman-farm workers load train car-wikicommons

If, like me, you’d like to do a pilgrimage to the homes of Dan Patch, check Dan Patch Historical Society in Savage MN for places and events. Also look for “Dan Patch Days” in Oxford IN.

Four Strong Winds

Ian_and_Sylvia_1968 publicity photo-wikicommonsI’ve been thinking about Ian Tyson lately. With the recent death of Leonard Cohen, the songs and the songwriters of Canada – and an era – have been heard a lot.

One song that often sneaks into my head is Four Strong Winds, the most evocative, and most Canadian of songs. Written by Ian Tyson, recorded by Ian & Sylvia in 1963, then by almost everybody else.

Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high

Could be any part of Canada. West, east, south or north – strong winds blow; seas, lakes, rivers run high. But it’s Alberta in the song. And, for many people for many years, it’s been Alberta in the reality. Going out west for work. Ranch work. Before oil.

Ian Tyson with_2011_Charles_M._Russell_Heritage_Award-wikicommons-Lee-Gunderson
Ian Tyson, at home, with 2011 Charles M. Russell Heritage Award

It is the reality for Mr. Tyson. He’s owned a working ranch in Alberta for decades. And he’s kept writing and singing songs. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn’t settle in the States. With many of them, he spent time in California and New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Then he came home.

Born in British Columbia, he worked the rodeos. Then the music, and his time with Sylvia (Fricker) Tyson. The years of his Four Strong Winds and Someday Soon and her You Were On My Mind. Many more too but, for those three songs alone, they deserve to be canonized.TCH 1 west road sign in Alberta photo O Ogglesby

Think I’ll go out to Alberta…

Four Strong Winds is about Canada. The distances that make leaving one part of the country for another a big deal. Winters that make you think twice. “And those winds sure can blow cold way out there.” In the song, it’s Alberta’s winds but it could be almost anywhere, in winter.

Ian-Tyson_-Hat-boots-rope-photo-Don-Kennedy-Cdn-Country-music-hall-of-fame.jpg
Ian Tyson display at Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame

There still are ranches in Alberta, there is still a beef industry. There are cowboys, but fewer of them. It is all still part of the mythology of place. But oil took over the reality. The westward drift of labour continued, in search of oil work. The lure of the big bucks. Then, as the economy elsewhere faltered, it was simply the lure of a job – any job. But Stetsons and roper boots come out, at least during the Stampede when everybody’s a cowboy.western heritage statue-2006 Calgary airport photo O Ogglesby

The song is about more too. It’s about the bittersweetness of leaving the familiar for somewhere new. Leaving the beloved, hoping that time and distance can be bridged. Knowing that it can’t, and maybe that’s a good thing. “Our good times are all gone, and I’m bound for moving on.”

So there’s the story of Canada, and the human heart – in two verses and a chorus. Thank you, Ian Tyson.

For the story of the woman he would send the fare, see MacLean’s from 2012. And at American Songwriter, Rick Moore discusses the lyrics and slight changes made by other artists.

Flat Bay, Newfoundland

The Mi’kmaq community of Flat Bay in Bay St. George is on YouTube. Below is a 16 minute documentary about the west coast Newfoundland village (Feb. 2017).

You can also download the accompanying report on Traditional Land Use and Occupancy. In 86 pages, the authors give a good overview of Flat Bay’s history, traditions and kinship networks.

Flat Bay is an important historical and political centre of the Newfoundland MI’kmaq. Its people have been central in the fight for official recognition as a First Nation. But if you’re driving across Newfoundland, you’re likely to miss it. It’s well off the TransCanada Highway at the end of a road that goes nowhere else. This has been good for Flat Bay’s preservation of identity. From the conclusion of the report, here’s a bit of the reason why.

flat bay tluos cover photo
Flat Bay, photo from TLUOS cover page

[The Mi’kmaq] settled in Flat Bay, due to its abundance of eel, access to the interior by the “river highways,” and provided isolation while allowing closeness to trading partners on Sandy Point.

…Originally a patchwork community was knit together due to their natural river boundaries. Hundreds of people bound together, through various means, surviving off the bounty of land and water, slowing closing the distance between them through the relationships that established the bloodlines we document in this study. For a time, the communities, Flat Bay West, East, and St. Teresa’s, were divided by the dialogue of outsiders. Divisions [were] drawn along… place name, family name, income and occupation, education, dialect…

As the community began to shrink for these reasons and others, the residents undertook policy, whether they did it consciously is still up for debate, of their community’s regeneration… Flat Bay was not unlike a thousand other small communities… of Newfoundland; the difference was someone else was writing our story. [pp 57-58]

google map flat bay
Google map of Flat Bay (click to enlarge)

Flat Bay History and Families

Flat Bay has been writing its own story, in terms of maintaining a strong Mi’kmaq community, for a long time. They literally write their own story in this study, in its authorship and use of interviews with residents. It begins with a concise history of the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq and of Flat Bay. The authors then trace the history of industrial and subsistence economic activities, social and trade contact with nearby communities, and the effect of game laws. Education, language and the role of women are discussed in terms of tradition and change. The final section is an easy to follow history of the major Mi’kmaq families in the town: Benoit, King, Webb and Young.

It is an excellent study. Thanks to authors Calvin White, Hailey Burroughs, Mary Elsa (Dale) Young and Ivan White.

Pen Name Mysteries

Amazon link for The Cuckoo's Calling
Click to buy on Amazon

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb are pen name mysteries by famous authors I’ve never read. Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rawling of Harry Potter fame and J. D. Robb is the romance writer Nora Roberts. Both books, I think, are excellent.

The Cuckoo’s Calling introduces Cormoran Strike, private investigator. He has had a recent run of bad luck in business and love. Then he gets a new case. It promises to pay well, but seems to him to be more a matter of reassuring his client than of investigating a murder. It looks like J._K._Rowling_wikicommons pen name mysteriesan open and shut case of a London celebrity suicide. But is it? Or is a murderer hiding in plain sight? With his office temp, Robin, he gets drawn into a sad, tangled story of fame and envy, money and family.

Despite the sadness of Cuckoo’s central story, you still feel cozy in Cormoran’s office looking out on a wet and wintry London. Despite the nastiness of some of the characters, you feel sympathy toward them.

In Devoted in Death, you never feel cozy nor inclined toward understanding the reasons for murder. You see right off the bat who dun it, and why. You then follow the action and the thinking by police lieutenant Eve Dallas and her detectives as they figure it out. The plot is grisly and twisted enough to make a good episode of Criminal Minds.

Amazon link for Devoted in Death
Click to buy on Amazon

It takes place in New York City in 2061. I’m not a big science fiction fan, but this setting is ok. There are some technologies that we, to my knowledge, do not have at the present time. And that is kind of neat to think about. But it doesn’t get in the way of the story.

Some aspects of American society maybe are eternal, one being the disconnect between NYC and the ‘flyover zone’.  An Arkansas deputy in the city for the first time expresses his awe: “That kicks the cow in the ass.” That line alone made the book worth reading.

The edition that I have is labelled ‘romantic suspense’. I don’t know why. There is suspense but no more ‘romance’ than in any other Nora_Roberts-wikicommons-Devillibrariangenre mystery. The book includes the protagonists’ lives outside the investigation, but not overwhelmingly so. The book is suspenseful, yes, but romantic, no.

In their different ways, English versus American most obviously, both books engaged me right from the start. I may now seek out books written under the authors’ real names to see how they differ. For sure I want to read more of their pen name mysteries.

Coronation Street Library

Coronation Street Library - Amazon for Coronation Street Colouring Book
Click for Amazon link

Seeing that a Coronation Street adult colouring book will soon be released made me think about how big the Coronation Street library is. Reams of paper about the fictional town of Weatherfield and its residents. Histories of the show, fictional backstories of the Street, socio-cultural analysis, and more.

It is not just paper. There is merch galore. Documentaries about the show and spin-off movies. Collectibles, from t-shirts to Lilliput house miniatures. Games and quiz books. Everything you could want to back up your fandom is available.

Coronation Street Library - CS video game 2008 wikicommons
Coronation Street video game – a collector’s Holy Grail

The old Granada Studios had a Coronation Street gift shop. Arrayed in front of you was everything Corrie. Books and cards. Tea towels featuring Ena Sharples. Hilda Ogden’s plaster ducks. Rovers Return teapots. Dinnerware sets with a small Rovers Return on the rims. It was heaven.

Now almost everything can be found online. I could not find the dinner sets, though, despite searching high and low. Here’s some of what is available. My list is not exhaustive: over 60 years has produced a huge Coronation Street library. To see everything Corrie on Amazon.ca, click Coronation Street Merch or use my links below for specific items. I will also add items as I find them. All links are to Amazon Canada unless otherwise noted.

Books

Amazon link Teaching TV SoapsTeaching TV Soaps - Louise Alexander and Alison Cousens, 2008 British Film Institute. "Combining challenging theory with accessible and practical teaching ideas."
Other-Worlds_WEB (not a link)Other Worlds: Society seen through soap opera - Dorothy Anger, 1999 Broadview. To my knowledge, the only comparative study of US and UK soaps and their audiences. (U of T Press).
Coronation Street Cookbook - Graeme Carlisle, 1992 Random House UK. "Traditional Lancashire pies and puddings to Jim McDonald's Irish stew and Mike Baldwin's bubble and squeak."
Amazon link Unofficial Coronation Street Quiz BookThe Ultimate Unofficial Coronation Street Quiz Book - Ed Cobham, 2010 Summersdale, Kindle or paperback eds.
Amazon Coronation Street Coloring BookCoronation Street, The Official Colouring Book: Colour classic scenes from the show's history -
45 scenes to colour, $14.99, ITV 2016
Coronation Street - Richard Dyer (ed.) 1981
British Film Institute. An essential collection of analyses for students of popular culture.
Amazon 50 years of Coronation Street Unofficial50 Years of Coronation Street: The (Very) Unofficial Story - Sean Egan, 2010 Aurum Press. The show's history, the British soap industry it spawned, its reflection of real life, audiences, and actors.
Amazon Coronation Street: The complete sagaCoronation Street: The complete saga
- Katherine Hardy, 2004 Granada Media. The epic novel of over 40 years of life on the Street. (She has written other tv novelizations and also writes as Catrin Collier.)
Amazon Soap OperaSoap Opera - Dorothy Hobson, 2003 Polity. An essential for understanding British soaps: history, analysis of genre and audience studies.
Amazon Elsie Tanner Fights BackElsie Tanner Fights Back - H. V. Kershaw, 1977 Mayflower. (Text link goes to this and other books by the early writer and producer: The Street Where I Live, Early Days, Trouble at the Rovers.)
Amazon Coronation Street around the housesCoronation Street: Around the houses - Daran Little, 1998 Boxtree (Former archivist and writer at Coronation Street). Backstories of occupants of houses and businesses.
Amazon Weatherfield LifeWeatherfield Life: A portrait of Coronation Street - Daran Little and Bill Hill, 1994 Index/Granada. Life on the Street from 1902, when it was "built" to 1960 when the show began.

Daran Little has written many books on the history of Coronation Street and Weather. Click to see his other books about the Street available on Amazon Canada.

The Women of Coronation Street - Daran Little, 1998 Boxtree. The lives of Corrie's women and how their characters and stories fit into the show's structure.
Amazon Street TalkStreet Talk: The language of Coronation Street - Jeffrey Miller, 1986 CBC Enterprises. A collectible, and useful, guide to the slang of the North of England.
Amazon Television Horace NewcombEncyclopedia of Television - Horace Newcomb (ed.) 1997 Routledge.  Analyses of television, including Corrie, collected for Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communication.
Amazon Coronation Street PodmoreCoronation Street: The inside story - Bill Podmore, 1990 MacDonald. Mr. Podmore was a director on the show in the 1960s, producer in the 1970s and executive producer in the 1980s.
Amazon 50 Years of Coronation StreetFifty Years of Coronation Street - Tim Randall, 2010 Headline. Foreword by Tony Warren. Profiles of characters, interviews with actors, history of show, etc.
Amazon The Rovers ReturnThe Rovers Return: The official Coronation Street Companion - Tim Randall, 2013. Hardcover. History of pub, staff and patrons.
Coronation Street: A fully-illustrated record of television's most popular series - Jack Tinker, 1987 Littlehampton. Great collectible, by long-time Daily Mail theatre critic.
Amazon Lights of ManchesterThe Lights of Manchester - Tony Warren (Kindle). 1992 Random House. The first novel by Coronation Street's creator. Different characters, same city, same clever writing.
Amazon Little Book of Carla ConnorThe Little Book of Carla Connor - Glenda Young (Kindle) 2016. "A decade in the life of a soap queen: An unofficial Coronation Street companion book."

Click for Glenda Young’s other Coronation Street books and show updates (Deirdre; A Perfect Duet; Norman Bates with a Suitcase).

DVDs

Amazon Funk Fit DVDCoronation Street: Funk Fit - "Dance your way to a FITTER, SHAPLIER YOU" with Tina O'Brien (Sarah Platt), Nikki Sanderson (Candice Stowe) and LucyJo Hudson (Katy Harris). Yesss!
Amazon A Knight's Tale DVDA Knight's Tale - Mary and Norris have a medieval-themed weekend away. They are joined by former Street residents Richard Hillman, Reg Holdsworth and Curly Watts.
Amazon Out of Africa DVDOut of Africa - 2009, the Battersby-Browns and Kirk go to South Africa on holiday. Spoiler: South Africa survives.
Amazon Road to Coronation Street DVDRoad to Coronation Street - "Delightful dramatization of how Coronation Street came into being." Sunday Telegraph. Very true, very good.
Amazon Romanian Holiday DVDRomanian Holiday - 2010, Roy and Hayley go to Romania for a friend's wedding. Becky joins them. Romania survives.

Click for more Coronation Street DVDs.

Collectibles

The Corner Shop, Coronation Street- Lilliput Lane. It's expensive, but it's a Lilliput Miniature. They are all lovely and this series is of buildings we know well.
The Duckworths, Coronation Street- Lilliput Lane. Maybe appropriate that Jack and Vera's is the first house they chose to reproduce. Vera would be so chuffed!

Keith Duffy Life-Size Cutout - Celebrity Cutouts

What more could a Ciaran or Boyzone fan want? If you don't have the space or $75 for a full-size Keith, he is also available in miniature - 2 ft. high for $26.99 Cdn.
Mike Baldwin Figure- A Mini-Mike! Corgi Icon Figure, in box. 1:32 scale, 3" or 7.5 cm high.
Steve McDonald/Simon Gregson Mask
You can be Steve if you wish. Or Deirdre, Ken, Kevin - even the previous Nick, Adam Rickett, with Scribz UK's celebrity card masks.
T-shirt - Coronation Street Logo
100% cotton, S-4XL, $22-25, by CafePress

Other Coronation Street tees available include “Keep Calm, Put Corrie On”, Barlow family, and many Michelle Keegan (Tina) photo shirts.

Games

Coronation Street Mobile Phone Game
by Tactic Games UK,
A quiz game on your phone for multiple players.
Coronation Street Ringtone
Not a game, but perhaps an essential for your phone? The Corrie theme for your ringtone and alerts.

 Coronation Street Trivia Board Game
DVD, over 700 questions in 6 categories, goes up to about 2010 in storyline.
Life at the Rovers
1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Also "Double Acts" jigsaw. Both by Falcon de Luxe.

The Boxer, Copper

When I was 13, our next door neighbour got a dog. In itself, that’s not extraordinary. However, this dog acquisition caused quite a stir. She was an elderly Boxer facewidow and lived alone. The dog was a young Boxer. His name was Copper. He was the colour of a new penny, she or someone said. I can’t remember where she got him, if she sought him out or if he just happened along. I thought it was wonderful that Mrs. Layfield got a dog, but even I was a bit surprised, especially the dog being a big energetic Boxer.

My parents, and probably everybody else in town, were amazed, maybe even horrified. The Layfields had never had a dog in our memory. And Mrs. Layfield was a tiny lady. My mother feared the dog would knock her down the stairs, knock her over in the hallway, knock her down outside. You’d go to her house, ring the doorbell and hear Copper  tearing along the hall at full speed. Mrs. Layfield would come along behind, open the door and welcome you into the front parlour.

She was a lady of the Victorian era. Her house was lovely, with beautifully polished old furniture, lace antimacassars on chair arms and backs. Delicate porcelain figurines and glass ornaments displayed on table tops. And in the middle of it, a huge slobbering Boxer galumphing around.

A Boxer and bric a brac

Copper, to my knowledge, never knocked a single table over. He seemed able to jump and play in the middle of a room full of lovely and fragile bric a brac without touching a thing. In deference to her upholstered furniture, she put old towels on chair arms and parts of the sofa where he was likely to be, and likely to drool. She kept towels in the kitchen by his bowls and in the hallway to mop up the water that dribbled out of his mouth after he drank. But other than that, Mrs. Layfield made no adjustments to her living arrangements to accommodate his boisterousness, and she didn’t need to. He seemed to know where it was ok to be boisterous and how to play around the furniture.

Her backyard was already fenced, and we’d watch Copper playing with stuffed toys and balls in his yard. Mrs. Layfield took him for walks down front view of Copper's house in Belmont ONMain Street. He walked sedately beside her, never pulling or getting tangled in her feet.

The two of them aged together. Copper’s hips got bad and she made him a bed on the main floor when he couldn’t climb the stairs. Not long later, she did the same for herself. She and Copper lived together until he died of old age. She didn’t get another dog. A few years later, she sold her house and moved to a nursing home. A new young family moved in, with a young black Lab. It was nice to see a dog in the yard next door again. But we still called it “Copper’s yard”.  Many owners later, we still call the house “Mrs. Layfield’s house”.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Stories, Feb. 13, 2011

Super Superdogs!

pc superdogs logoCame home smelling of strange dogs tonight.  I’d been to see the PC Superdogs at London’s John Labatt Centre [now Budweiser Gardens].  My dogs are now sitting either side of me, as close as they can get.  Maybe they’re afraid I’m going to trade them in.  They’re not in any danger of being replaced, but the Superdogs were awesome.

Big, little, purebreds, mongrels, shelter dogs, pound rescues – they’re all there, and Poles - Sheepdogthey’re brilliant.  We sat in the front row in floor seating.  Sometimes dogs that veered off the path came right in front of us.  We took pictures, held our breath when they jumped hurdles, cheered “our” dogs on in races until we were hoarse.  It’s regular people with their regular dogs, a little bit of glitz with rhinestone collars and sparkly scarves.  A bit of clowning with Pot Roast, a bulldog who couldn’t really jump or weave around poles but had a good time trying.  Dogs sometimes doing incredible agility feats, sometimes starting out brilliantly then just kind Superdogs Jack Russellof losing track and going off to sniff the floor in search of popcorn.  The ‘dog freestyle’ Rottweillers turned out not to be in a dancing mood, so pretty much just goofed around.

After the show, everyone got to meet the dogs.  They enjoyed being the stars and loved the pats and kisses.  When the arena cleared out, some of the pups in training came out and played around with each other and the audience members who were still hanging around.  I think we were the last to high hurdlesleave.  The arena security people were telling us and the remaining dog handlers which exits to use, as in it’s time to leave now!  It’s a great show – kids and adults alike loved the show and the dogs.  If you have a chance to see them, it’s well worth it.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 8, 2010. Here are the cities and dates for the 2016 PC Superdogs Canadian tour covering Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Annabel

Michael Crummey wrote of Kathleen Winter’s novel Annabel, “a beautiful book, brimming with heart and uncommon wisdom.” That’s on the book jacket. It’s true. This is a beautiful love story – of two young people, a family, friends, and a big land.

Amazon link for Annabel
Amazon link for Annabel

It was one of the books chosen for 2014’s Canada Reads on CBC Radio. Despite (or because of) the praise it received, I decided to avoid it at all costs.

Its Labrador setting interested me – but. It sounded too much like it was good for you. “Diversity” and “inclusiveness” were used to describe its story. These are words that I used to like but now make me gak like a cat with a hairball. Hearing them now used too earnestly, too combatively, too often, too everywhere.

Last time I was at the library, there was Annabel in a display rack. I stopped and looked at it, went on, then came back. I took it, reasoning that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to finish it. Too quickly I finished it, even reading and rereading as slowly as I could. I wanted it to go on forever.

People and Places of Annabel

It took a few pages to overcome my resistance and hook me. I still feared it would be a misery of a read, filled with horrible, heartbreaking things happening. And there are those. But, as the characters do, you get past them somehow. It’s how Kathleen Winter tells the story, I guess. You care about the people, and they all have something very good in them (well, all but a few of them). I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot. You’ll have to take my word that it is a rare and joyful experience to read.

Annabel - Sunset-NWRiver-WikipediaYou move into the story – into the houses and the towns and the landscape. And the story moves into you. I realized just how much when I said aloud to the book “You’re up by Bannerman Park!” when a character, lost, describes what’s around him to another character over the phone.

Books can make you laugh out loud and cry. Rarely do they make you simply smile as you read passages that are so lovely you want to imprint them on your mind and memory. Annabel is one of those books. You want to know what happens after the story ends, and you also just want to remember what was in the pages.

Watch Dog

watch dog Bing with Dad at Esso station grand openingBing was a small German Shepherd or Alsatian as Mom called her.  She was a watch dog. My dad got her from another service station when he opened his.  She was very good at her job – the perfect Walmart greeter during the day and to those who had legitimate business, a holy horror of snapping teeth and bristled fur at night or to those without good reason to be on the property.

Bing-in-WindowWhen Dad sold the business, Bing came home with us.  She quickly adapted to house living, but she kept her principal loyalty to Dad.  Mom was second on her list and we kids, well, she liked us all right but didn’t pay much attention to us.

One summer evening my parents were out and only my older sister and I were home.  My sister was talking on the phone and I had nothing to do.  So I decided to teach Bing to walk on a leash.  Well, Bing had never been on a leash in her life and had no intention of starting now!  But, out in the driveway, she humoured me or figured the bits of hotdog I was using as bait were worth her putting up with my foolishness. Dusk started to fall.  I noticed a car pull up and stop in front of the house.  I didn’t recognize it, so went on with the “training”.  Bing noticed it too, and kept one eye on the car and the other on the hotdogs.

After quite a while, the driver opened the car door and started to get out.  A rumble started deep in Bing’s throat.  She took off, ripping the leash out of my hands.  She flew towards the car, roaring.  The man jumped back in, jammed the car in gear and took off, door still open.  I stood in the driveway crying and screaming for Bing to come back, which she did, of course, as soon as she realized she couldn’t catch the car.

My sister came out to see what the noise was about.  When my parents got home, we told Bing at homethem.  My dad’s face went ashen, lips white.  He asked for a description of the car.  It was light blue – that’s all I knew.  My sister had seen it through the window and knew a bit more, it was a sedan and I think she knew the make.  Turns out, the police had put out a notice that there was a man trying to abduct little girls in our area.  The car they had seen him in fit the description of the one in front of our house.

I don’t know what would have happened to me, a little girl playing in her own driveway, if there hadn’t been a dog there too.  Bing had been alert to his presence the whole time, but had been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until he opened the car door.  I have no doubt he was the child molester.  She did not react that way to strangers simply stopping to ask directions.  Bing saved me that night – perhaps my life, certainly at least my innocence.  She got extra pats that night from my dad, I remember. Bing may have retired, but she was still a watch dog.

Many dogs have watched over me, guarded and protected meBing on home watch.  In childhood and teenage years, my dogs always helped me solve my problems or at least comforted me so that I could cope with them.  I guess I never had problems so big that a dog couldn’t deal with them.  For that I’m thankful. I’m thankful too for those dogs who shared their brave, big hearts with me.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, July 4, 2010