wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Dorothy in Kansas?

Four years ago we camped in Montana and I learned how close it was to Dorothy and Toto’s Kansas. We parked our 19-foot trailer in a clean, new RV Park. The Captain decided to do a reconnaissance trip while I settled in to catch up with my email.

“Perfect,” I thought, “I’m going to enjoy my little bit of alone time.” Twenty minutes later, disaster struck.

When we first arrived, the Captain put up the trailer awning. You would think he knew about raising sails…. I made the mistake of suggesting that this was not a good idea because northeastern Montana is prairie-like and the wind whistles  unimpeded across the land. Of course, as soon as I  said “Don’t,” he did. Why don’t I learn?

“If it’s too windy, I’ll take it down,” he’d said.

He left. I settled in,  enjoying my laptop and connecting with friends by email. Moments later, the whole trailer began to shake. A big gust of wind buffeted it. Visions went through my head –  the trailer with me inside, bouncing across the prairie like a giant vinyl tumbleweed. I pulled the curtains aside and looked out the window. The canvas was billowing high, and the aluminum support on one side had collapsed so the awning hung onto the trailer at an odd twisted angle.

53More gusts. I had to do something or we might roll over. Outside, I stood wondering what to do. If I did the wrong thing, a big wind gust  could rip the awning or the aluminum supports out of my hands and smash them into the trailer. One support was higher than the other. I tried to lower it one notch at a time by opening the lever and un-telescoping the support. You would think that was the sensible and easy thing to do, except that the pin that holds the telescoped part in place is no longer responding to the lever action when I try to release it. The pin is either broken off or hanging by a thread. I muscled the thing to push it up and used needle-nosed pliers to poke the metal pin back through the slots that held the support in place, but all it did was slide into the next slot down and the struggle began all over again. The old whiplash injury in my neck began to scream in pain at the effort and I had to give up for a while. More gusts of wind. I tried again. More neck pain. I gave up and resigned myself to becoming a tumbleweed.

52I didn’t get much emailing done, or enjoy my “alone time.” I fretted until the Captain came back.

What I had struggled with for two hours took him less than five minutes to fix.

“Huh!” he said, “I didn’t think it was going to be that windy.”

I was dying to say “I told you so,” but what would have been the point?


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Life in the (not so far) North

This is a post from three years ago, before I had many followers. My apologies to those early readers who have already seen it. I thought it was a good wintery post, especially since we are having another cold snap. It’s a bit of reading, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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Have you ever had someone ask you, “What was it like in the olden days?” My first impulse is always to say, “How should I know?” but I suppose, to the young people of today, I must seem ancient.

When I was little, I lived in the north. I found out later that Dawson Creek wasn’t all that far north. Still, judging by the winters we endured, I was sure we didn’t live far from the North Pole. So, I’ll tell you what it was like—up there, in the “olden days.” Not easy!

Kids walked to elementary school, some as far as a mile, in -20 or colder, all bundled up like mummies, with only slits of eyes peering through a scarf at the snow that swirled around them. I was lucky, living close to the school, but often I saw my friends arriving late, bawling their eyes out from the pain of the cold. How did parents allow them to walk that far in those bitter cold temperatures? What if the kids had fallen and not gotten up? I know how tempting it was to stay curled up in the snow after falling down in it. The indentation in the snow felt so warm, out of the wind, like a little cave. Luckily, my mother had warned me not to be fooled or I would freeze to death.

“You’ll fall asleep and never wake up,” she said. When I told her about my friend Linda crying when she got to school, she said, “You have to try not to cry when you get cold or your tears will freeze on your face.”

She was probably right. I never tested her theory, but I know that the air was cold enough to sear my lungs when I took that first breath as I stepped out of the house, and I was instantly aware of my eyebrows as they froze in the first few seconds.

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Still, we were pretty tough as kids. We played outside as long as it wasn’t too extreme, making snowforts, throwing snowballs, and building mountains of snow to slide down. Our mittens were soaked in no time and after going through two pairs of wet ones, we used old work socks instead. Every few minutes we came into the porch to ask for another pair of socks. Now as an adult, I can see my mother’s dilemma: keep handing out work socks and let the laundry pile up, or make the kids come in and have them underfoot.

In high school years I had farther to go to school—a couple of miles—and still, car rides to school were a rare thing. In those years, girls were not allowed to wear pants in school so it was an extra cool walk home. In elementary school we often wore pants under our skirts, but in high school, we didn’t always bother. Stupid conventions, looking back on them now; double layers of clothes for the double standards of the day.

A snowy trail packed down to ice by the tread of dozens of feet wound its way through fields that are now housing subdivisions. But back in “the olden days,” this trail was the connector from town to the outlying houses. Walking home from high school, the trick was to stay on the path and not slide off it into the foot and a half of softer snow next to it. Once that snow went inside the boots, forget about keeping warm. All the while, my ribcage ached from being so tensed up from trying to close every pore against the cold.

Crossing the railroad tracks one day, I slipped on the metal rail. I scrambled to get up and hurried home. When I got in the door and took off my snow-filled boots, I noticed a trickle of dried blood on my shin. I had a cut on my knee and didn’t even know it. So I concluded there was something good about the “natural freezing” of this harsh place. Who needs anaesthetic when you’re already numb from the cold?

I’ve frozen my feet so many times that even now, my toes suffer from permafrost. In those early years in Dawson Creek, without the benefit of modern technology to keep feet warm inside of boots, I came in from the cold with feet like icy clubs. I took off my boots and socks and sat near the heater. The pain of thawing my feet was worse than the pain of freezing them.

Now, many years later, living on Vancouver Island, I always marvel at what wusses people are here. They close the schools if there’s a snowfall of a few inches. If that applied in the north, there’d be no school for six or seven months of the year.

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But to be fair, I complain a lot about being cold when it’s raining and well above freezing. Now that I’ve joined the wusses, I wonder how I ever survived northern living.


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Coming Through

This is a post from almost four years ago. Only a few of you will remember it from then.

Coming Through

“Hey! Just in time. I’m starving,” Captain Gary called as I arrived at the wharf with sandwiches and coffee. “i knew you’d come through for me.”

“Didn’t want you to have to stop working.” Like most fishermen in the last weeks of May, Gary was racing the clock to get the boat ready for opening day of commercial fishing.

He gallantly set up a sun-bleached lawn chair for me on the deck of the salmon troller. I protested, but he said, “No, you go ahead and have the lawn chair. I can sit on the galley chair,” and he hauled out an old wooden thing from the wheelhouse.

We chit-chatted away while Gary ate his lunch. “Sure you don’t want one of these sandwiches?”

“No, thanks! I had one at home.” I spread out my arms to the sky. “What a great day! So good to see the sun at last.” I slid a little lower in the lawn chair to try to catch every last ray of sunshine.

“Oh, hi there, Fraser. Want a cup of coffee?” Gary raised his mug to a fellow fisherman who came by to talk about the merits of cold cure epoxy.

As they compared notes on the best temperature for using cold cure, I tuned out the fish talk and slouched even farther down in my lawn chair. God, that sun feels good.

The sharp cracking of plastic had all eyes turning my way. I did a split-second search for the source of the noise and watched an arm of the lawn chair snap in two. The crack was followed by the caving in of the lawn chair seat, another crack of the second arm, and the thud of my rear end hitting the deck.  There I sprawled, legs out front, elbows pointing skyward, and bottom on the deck.

“Are you okay?” the visiting fisherman asked.

I nodded, feeling my face heat up.”I guess I really came through all right.”

As Gary extricated me from the tangle of the broken chair, Fraser kindly and discreetly hurried away.


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Deflated

A day to remember from when I lived on the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Women! Listen to Your Man

“Don’t use the truck while I’m away,” he says.

“Why not?” I ask. “My back is a mess from pushing the Beetle to start it every time.”

“I’ll have a look at the Beetle when I get back, but meanwhile, don’t use the truck.”

After he leaves, I grumble. Fine for you to say ‘Don’t use the truck.’  Your back isn’t a wreck. I’m working too. To hell with this. I’m taking the truck to work.

The next day I get dressed for work. I have a 30-mile drive through uninhabited countryside to teach at an elementary school in the next town.  Ah, yes. It’s so fine driving the truck, even though it is an old beater. I don’t have to push it to start it, and the radio works. It even runs quietly because unlike the VW, it has a muffler.  Yes, I thought, I deserve this. I’m working and I deserve this.

But I don’t deserve what happens next.

As I round a slight curve in the highway, the truck wants to leave the road. I fight to hang onto the steering wheel to avoid careening into the ditch. I pump the brake and get the speed down to something manageable. Still holding the steering wheel in a death grip, I manage to come to a stop, just barely off the road, but safely on the shoulder. A quick inspection confirms a shredded right front tire.

Now what? I ‘m about ten miles from town and in the middle of nowhere. I take my school bag, lock the truck, and start walking.

It’s quiet out here on this sparsely used highway. At least it’s not raining for a change. I’ll be late for school. Nothing I can do about that. Maybe someone will come along and I’ll catch a ride. But at this time of the morning, why would anyone be driving this lonely road? I’m having guilty thoughts about using the truck when the Captain specifically said not to. He hadn’t said why though. I thought he was just being chintzy, as the Beetle is much cheaper on gas.

But wait! Do I hear a vehicle? Will it stop for me? I get out on the middle of the road, hoping it won’t barrel right over me. It sounds like a big engine.

Glory be! What comes around the bend but the blessed school bus. The gods love me after all. I jump aboard explaining my near disaster and am delighted to be dropped off at the school steps. I’m not late after all. Everything will be okay.

I phone my brother-in-law, Vaughn, who works at the local garage. He says he’ll see what he can do.

After school, we drive out to the blowout site with a compressor in the back of the garage’s tow truck.

Vaughn pulls up to the back of the truck. “It’s the right front,” I say.

“Well…looks like you have a flat in the back too.”

Vaughn pumps up the back tire, removes the mashed front tire, and has to pump up the flat spare tire before putting it on. He gives me a hug and says good luck.

I drive home praying silently that nothing more will happen. I vaguely remember the Captain once saying something about the truck tires only being cheap retreads. I guess I’ve learned my lesson. My day has been as bad as it can get, hasn’t it?

I pull into the driveway at home and blow out a long breath of relief. I get out of the truck and it seems there’s yet another tire doing the same thing.

S-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s!