COPYRIGHT© 2014 Laura Hesse
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means or stored in a database or retrieval system without prior written permission of the publisher.
The author and the publisher make no representation, express or implied, with regard to the accuracy of the information contained in this book. The material is provided for entertainment purposes and the references are intended to be supportive to the intent of the story. The author and the publisher are not responsible for any action taken based on the information provided in this book.
All characters in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Hesse, Laura – 1959
Peter Pan Wears Steel Toes/by Laura Hesse
ISBN 13 digit: 978-0-9877343-3-4
Publisher: Running L Productions
Parksville, BC Canada
I want to thank all my cruising partners and supervisors over the years, wherever in the world or the universe you may be. This includes but is not limited to Brian, Jim, Denise, Dave, Nancy, Hilda, Micheline, Ben, Joanne, and Paul. It was a pleasure working with you. My life is much richer for the experience.
A big thank you goes out to Boris Rasin in New York who did an amazing job on the front cover. He took my vision and made it a reality.
Thanks to my editor, Dianne Andrews, for a job well done.
I’d also like to thank my mum for squirreling away this manuscript. I had thought it lost forever.
A big thank-you goes out to my family for supporting me through-out my life and various incarnations.
FROM THE AUTHOR
I wrote the original manuscript for this novel during the winter of 1982 on an old Underwood typewriter while the memories were still fresh in my mind and the daily journal that I had kept was still around. It was happenstance that I found the manuscript stored inside a box of my mother’s papers several months ago.
Reading it again brought back memories of an amazing journey: gruelling days of hard work, wonderful people, life experiences and adventures galore.
Everything that happens in this book is true. The adventures all occurred during the summer that I spent working for the Ministry of Natural Resources in Blind River. Names and characters have been changed in the interest of privacy. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Please remember that this book is set in 1981. You may not agree with some of the language contained herein. Canada was also making the switch to metric and we were recording distances and measuring plots in both imperial and metric which is why I jump between the two.
|1||Careful What You Wish For||1|
|3||In Peter Pan’s Shoes||35|
|4||On Fly-in’s & A Boy With One Leg||52|
|5||Eight-legged Freaks & Breakfast for Three||75|
|6||Lost in Translation||93|
|7||Mad Dogs & Englishman||105|
|8||A Whale of a Tale||124|
|9||Flip, Rattle & Roll||135|
|10||Until We Meet Again||147|
Careful What You Wish For
Blind River, April, 1981
‘No Whites Allowed’ was scrawled in thick white acrylic paint across the rusted supports of the train trestle that traversed the river on the border of the local Reserve and Blind River’s town boundaries. These sentiments were out of my realm of experience.
One has to understand, I was privately adopted from the Salvation Army Hospital in Ottawa by two wonderful people. My father was a proud French Canadian whose mother was of Mohawk heritage and whose father was Belgian. My dad worked his way up from a government clerk to a Certified General Accountant, becoming the Chief Financial Officer of the Royal Canadian Mint by the time I was seven. My mother was an English war bride who taught dancing and choreographed and produced music hall theatre.
Both survived a war that shredded countries and lives. They buried friends and loved ones. They never discussed World War II, except to share enchanting stories of laughter, music and song, as seen through the eyes of love and youth.
My brother, almost eleven years older than me, was and is a city boy at heart. I’m sure he still wonders how a horse-addicted tree-hugging tomboy grew out of the cute little baby that first arrived on the Groleau doorstep in the summer of 1959.
The only thing that I knew about my birth mother was that she was short, dark skinned and raven haired, most likely of Native or Métis descent, and that my birth father was tall and blond. My adoption was arranged by my parent’s pediatrician because he worked at the single mother’s clinic at the Sally Anne’s hospital and knew that my parents had always wanted another child. He thought that my mother and I were a perfect match as she was short and dark haired and I was expected to be the same. I was adopted two months before I was born. I consider myself one of the luckiest daughters and sisters in this world.
In a profound way, those three short words written on that train trestle so many years ago signaled the beginning of a new life for me, a life so different from the one that I grew up with that it couldn’t help but shape me into a whole new person. I found racism and intolerance in places, awe and respect in others. Laughter and fear, friendship and adventure, became a part of my daily life.
While the journey originally began at the Ministry of Natural Resources in Lanark, Ontario in 1979, the real challenge began in Blind River in late April of 1981. From there, I went north to Fort McMurray to work as one of the first woman firefighters hired by the Alberta Forest Service, but that is another story.
Blind River in nineteen-eighty-one was the same as most small highway towns, a little seedy and rundown but, underneath it all, populated by a friendly and charismatic group of tree-huggers, laid-off loggers, mill workers, old miners, outfitters, and mom and pop small business operators.
The grocers sold over-priced meat, milk and eggs.
The gas stations sold gallon buckets of fat, juicy worms along with fishing and hunting licenses.
The outfitters took Davey Crockett want-to-bes into the woods to shoot anything that moved during hunting season and also picked up the pieces of the headless, skinned bears left to rot in the dump by the armchair warriors too lazy or broke to hire them.
I didn’t own a rifle…yet, and preferred to fish from a canoe.
In the morning, I was scheduled to start my new job with the Ministry of Natural Resources, formerly called the Department of Forests, aka, the Department!
I was never sure if that made me a Departmenter or just Departmental.
I waved goodbye to the good-natured Greyhound Bus driver who had helped me move a gargantuan, sleeping drunk off my numb shoulder in order to step off the bus. The Greyhound pulled back onto the highway in a puff of greasy diesel smoke, heading east to Sudbury.
I sniffed the air, my nose wrinkling. The smell was noxious.
It wondered if I shouldn’t have taken a summer waitress job at home in Ottawa instead of trying to save the world one tree at a time.
After a moment, I realized that it wasn’t the Greyhound bus or the Town of Blind River that I was smelling, it was me. I smelled of stale cigarettes, Lucky beer and Five Star whiskey.
I shouldered my backpack and hunkered down against the bitter wind blowing in off of the Great Lakes.
The sunset over the river was breathtaking. Reds, oranges and deep violets burned in brilliant plumes across the blackening sky. The rainbow of color almost erased the squalor of the dilapidated buildings beneath it.
After making my way from one full motor hotel to the other, the blinking ‘No Vacancy’ signs hurt my eyes. They were as red and raw as my nerves.
I stopped, breathless and tired.
My head hurt.
My feet hurt.
I wanted nothing more than to be a cat in front of a fire.
I shuffled my pack to the other shoulder and made my way into town as the last rays of the sunset reflected back at me from empty shop windows. The momentary beauty gave way to a feeling of desolate isolation.
There was no one to call, no couch to surf.
I had no friends here.
The whine of a slide guitar caught my attention.
Country music blared from an old lady of a hotel on the corner.
The Algonquin was an ancient establishment that still sported Men’s and Ladies entrance signs. The hotel had seen better days, but at least the ‘No’ in front of the vacancy wasn’t lit up. Go figure.
I had a hundred dollars in my pocket. It needed to last me until my first pay cheque and that was four weeks away. Being picky wasn’t an option.
As I looked up at the faded, blistered paint and the two boarded windows on the third floor of The Algonquin, a park bench seemed like a better idea.
I steeled myself and opened the door to the Ladies’ Entrance; after all, I was a lady even if I didn’t look or smell the part.
Threadbare oriental carpets covered the floors of the lobby. Faded black and white pictures lined the walls. Ghostly faces watched me walk up to the counter. I felt the ladies starched disapproval and the men’s scowls upon my back.
The air smelled like mold and cheap whiskey. A grand chandelier, though dust and cobweb covered, lit up the room. Inside the bar, the lead singer did a good imitation of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson wailing about jail birds and lost loves.
A grandmotherly type of woman with graying hair and a red swollen nose puffed on a mentholated cigarette behind the front desk. She eyed me keenly.
“I’d like a room for the night, please,” I asked sheepishly.
“Are you sure, honey?” she replied, kindly. “Maybe you’d like to see one first?”
“Everyone’s full. I need a room.”
“Okay, but there’s no TV and you have to share a bathroom. Bath’s at the end of the hall.”
“That’s fine,” I squeaked. “How much?”
“Alright,” I said, taking out my wallet. I counted out seven one dollar bills. At least, it wasn’t going to break the bank.
The clerk gave me a key.
“Take 301. You won’t hear the bar as much and don’t…I mean DON’T open the door for anyone,” she warned.
“By the looks of the steel toes you’re wearing, I take it you’re going to work for the Department?”
“Yes, ma’am, I start tomorrow.”
“There’s another girl here too. She’s in 306, but I haven’t seen hide nor hair of her so I expect she’s already hunkered down for the night. In the morning, the chink joint next door has good and cheap-as-a-dollar-whore breakfasts.”
“Thanks,” I said, signing the register and heading up the narrow stairway to the third floor.
I found 301 and sidled inside with a backwards glance over my shoulder. A chill swept over me, my spine tingling, despite the dusty hot air blazing out of the iron heat registers in the floor.
“Leave it to me to pick a haunted hotel,” I muttered to myself as I locked the door behind me.
The room wasn’t quite as bad as I expected, but not great either. Paint peeled off the walls beside the door and behind the bed. The floors were clean, the sheets on the bed white and crisp. The two blankets on the bed only had a couple of small cigarette burns. The air smelled like dirty laundry, but ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ as the old saying goes.
I decided I’d feel better sleeping on top of the bed in my own sleeping bag than under the covers and rolled out my bedroll. I set my small travel alarm for 6:30 am and changed into my flannel pjs. I’ve always adored the feel of flannel against my skin and the lemony smell of Sunlight reminded me of home.
I had to pee like a racehorse, but the idea of peeing in a shared bathroom didn’t really do it for me. I decided I could wait until morning and dreamed of flash floods and rolling waves all night long.
The alarm went off with a loud clamor.
I stumbled out of my sleeping bag, remembering at the last minute to change into my well worn jeans and lumberjack shirt before dashing down the hall to the community john.
The door was locked.
My kidneys were screaming. I squeezed my legs tightly together.
I waited…and waited.
I pounded on the door.
“Coming,” came the muffled call from behind the door. “Hold your water.”
The door opened.
A short, heavy set brunette with glacial blue eyes and an infectious smile blocked the doorway. She was dressed in jeans, flannel lumberjack shirt, and steel-toed boots, but the similarity stopped there. She was dark to my light, broad faced to my china-doll round, size sixteen to my size seven.
“Bursting, are you?”
“Yeah,” I squealed, dashing past her.
She howled with laughter as I slammed the door in her face.
“You heading for the Ministry?” she called.
“You mean the Department?” I warbled back, my bladder cooing with relief.
“One and the same. Want to meet in the lobby?”
“The Chinese joint next door has pretty good food. We can grab some breakfast.”
“Yeah, I heard that. Be right there,” I called.
“My name’s Sandy.”
“See you downstairs.”
After a quick top-to-tail wash with paper towels, I returned to my room, rolled my bedroll, and packed up my gear.
Backpack over my shoulder, I met Sandy in the lobby.
“Cruiser or compassman?” Sandy asked as we headed out the door.
“Compassman. Maybe we’ll get teamed up together.”
We grabbed the last empty table in the restaurant. The waitress came and we quickly ordered the bacon and egg special, not knowing when we’d get a chance to eat next.
“It’d be great working with a girl. No tan lines.”
We both laughed.
“Not likely,” said the guy in the next booth over. “They usually pair guys and girls together so the man can handle the heavy lifting. Some of the canoes are heavy and the portages long. You girls need help with that.”
Sandy rolled her eyes. I snorted coffee into my sleeve.
“I couldn’t help over-hearing.”
“Not when you’re eavesdropping,” Sandy quipped, openly hostile.
“Yeah, well, sorry. My name is Jimmy. I start today too,” a red-faced Jimmy replied.
Jimmy was handsome in a first string quarterback kind of way. He had jock written all over him. Sandy hated him instantly.
“Laura,” I reached over to shake his hand, “but my friends call me Lolly.” Sandy glared at me.
“Why Lolly?” Jimmy chuckled, shaking my hand.
His hands felt dry and callused.
“Short for Lily Lolly Lou. My friend’s dad used to call me that and it stuck.”
“Lolly. It suits you.”
“Thanks,” I shrugged good-naturedly not knowing that the shorter LOL would end up the much beloved Laugh Out Loud. I like to think I was the forbearer of that expression.
“Sandy,” Sandy grumbled under her breath as our breakfast arrived.
Jimmy slipped into the seat beside me.
“Mind if I join you?”
“You already have,” Sandy quipped.
“Thanks,” he replied, not noticing her sarcasm.
Jimmy seemed to be the stereotypical jock. He neither noticed my silence or Sandy’s quick witted responses to any question he asked from the status of the weather to the chances of the Ottawa Rough Riders winning the Grey Cup. He was an Argo fan all the way.
After the third round of Jimmy’s harping on women’s bodily functions, I was beginning to understand what Sandy had already fathomed. Jimmy was a bit of an idiot. A summer with him might indeed drive me mad.
“You know you guys have to be careful in the woods when you’re on the rag. The bears can smell it for miles,” Jimmy said through a mouthful of ketchup covered scrambled eggs.
Except for the bacon, I had suddenly lost my appetite.
“Noooo,” said Sandy, spearing a hash brown. “Why is that?”
“Cause, well, you know, the smell of blood,” Jimmy shrugged.
“What does the smell do to them, Jimmy?”
“It gets them, you know, randy,” he said shyly. “The bull mooses too. You girls got to be careful.”
“Fancy that, we might get gang banged by a horny bear or a bull moose, Lolly.”
Jimmy blushed like a cherry blossom, stuttered and stood up, knocking the ketchup and coffee cups across the table. His face grew an even darker shade of red. He stuttered and then bolted from the table.
“That was mean,” I whispered to Sandy, sopping up my spilled coffee with a napkin.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“He might be your partner,” I chided. “Go apologize.”
“I will not!”
I pushed away from the table and hustled over to the counter to pay my bill.
“Jimmy, why don’t you wait for us and we’ll walk down to the Department together,” I said, already feeling like a local.
“Are you sure?” he whispered. “I don’t think Sandy likes me.”
“She’ll get over it,” I said encouragingly, if not half-heartedly.
Jimmy wasn’t all ego and his intentions were for the best.
We paid our tabs and then hoisted our fifty plus pound packs over our shoulders. The packs contained all that we needed for the next four months. In my case it was five pairs of undies and socks, two t-shirts, one extra pair of jeans, one set of shorts, one sweater, one flannel nightie, toiletries, a half empty box of Tampax, and Ibuprofen. On the back of the pack was fastened a sleeping bag, deflated air mattress, and a raincoat.
In the nineteen-eighties, it seemed that all Ontario small town government buildings were painted white with dark green trim and Blind River’s was no different than Lanark’s had been. There was a main office, a two storey cluttered affair, and a couple of office trailers used as over-flow offices and a training centre. Later in the summer, I decided that these trailers were to keep us out of the main building. With a schedule of ten days in the bush and four days out, we stank like dead skunks by the time we finished the ten day stint. I’ve smelled a dead skunk and, baby, we were close.
The biggest building of the bunch was the shop and garage. The compound behind the shop was filled with beat up 4×4’s and canoes, with the occasional small motor boat and trailer. The trucks, canoes and boats were no more than two years old, but they looked like they had endured thirty years of hard use.
A tall taciturn man of about thirty-two waved to us from the steps of the main building. It wasn’t hard to tell the cruisers from the other Department workers. Our uniform was Grebb steel-toed boots, lumberjack shirts, and jeans. Bright yellow hard hats swung from our backpacks.
The yellow hard hats were a prerequisite. All worker ants wore them. The orange and red hard hats designated the crew leaders and queen bees of upper management.
Ben Wilson, our Team Leader, sometimes Guidance Counselor, part-time friend and mentor, escorted us to the conference room where numerous other cruisers were milling about, introducing themselves to each other.
“Okay, grab a seat everyone,” Ben called over the hubbub. “We’ve got lots to cover.”
Chairs scraped across scarred linoleum as everyone tossed their packs into a corner and sat down. Some nervously fidgeted with their pencils and paper in front of them, while others leaned back nonchalantly, clearly bored by having gone through this several times before.
“First order of business is to get you to fill out the contact emergency information forms. Don’t forget to write down any allergies you might have or meds you take so we have that on file in case we need it.”
“Like if you set yourself on fire with a Coleman stove,” one cruiser offered.
Everyone chuckled, thinking this enormously funny. Who on earth would think of a career in forestry without a love and knowledge of the outdoors and camping?
“Don’t laugh,” Ben said. “Sean set his tent on fire last year.”
“Seriously,” Sandy blurted out.
“Seriously,” Sean said. “I got second degree burns slapping at the tent to put it out. I know, it was dumb, but it was an instant reaction. I didn’t think.”
Sean held up his two scarred hands. Everyone cringed.
“That’s why we do a one week orientation course on first aid, compassing, tree species identification, and the SAFE operation of camping equipment,” said Ben.
There were a few snickers around the table.
“Don’t snicker and don’t laugh. You think college prepared you for real life, you are sooooo wrong. Last year, we had two guys fail to report in. We found them lost, two hundred feet in the bush from their camp. They thought their compasses lied to them.”
Silence greeted his words.
“But they did the right thing. They stayed put and waited for help. There is lots of magnetite in this area and it will screw with the compasses so be careful and pay attention in orientation. This isn’t a camping party with your mother or father. That is why we send you out with radios. You will report in EVERY night to base camp. If you don’t report in by morning, we come looking.”
A chill swept over the room.
I looked around. Several of the girls and guys looked glum. Sandy made a clown’s face at me. Jimmy puffed up like he had just consumed a Christmas turkey all by himself. The seasoned cruiser, whose partner had set himself and their tent on fire, looked smug. A compact, bullish fellow with a crew-cut seemed delighted. His name was Colin and he set my alarm bells to ringing.
There was one girl, Ocean, who stood apart from all the rest. She smiled sweetly at everything that Ben said and wrote copious notes. She had an air of purity about her, from the delicate poise of her pen to the soft timbre of her voice. She was pretty in a country maiden sort of way. I learned later that she had been raised on a commune on some island off the west coast.
I realized that I didn’t want to be paired with any of them except for Ocean, and secretly hoped that Ben was up for grabs.
“The other thing we are going to talk about right now is bears.”
There was a series of groans from the women. Yeah, be careful when you are on your period, we thought. Yadayada.
“Do not yell, wave your arms over your head, or bang pots at them. That is just stupid. If you run into a black bear, freeze and wait for a moment. If he doesn’t know you’re there, because they do have bad eyesight and hopefully you are downwind, then back away slowly. Once you are out of range, put on your Peter Pan shoes and fly out of there.”
This was met with a chorus of laughter.
“If you are attacked, roll yourself into a tight ball covering your head with your arms. It isn’t about playing dead, it’s about covering your vital organs and your head is one of them. Usually, the bear will bat you around a bit, maybe try and cover you up with leaves, and then wander off. It’s been years since anyone has been killed by a bear around here so let’s keep it that way. Keep your food covered and away from your tent. Alright, it’s time to pick crews and issue equipment,” Ben finished.
The two man crews were composed of one compassman and one cruiser. There were six crews in all. Each crew was assigned a compass, computer data sheets, camping equipment, a haga or sunto (an instrument used for measuring tree heights), an increment borer for taking tree age readings from the rings, and a prism (an instrument for reading trees of over a given basal area at a specific geographic point).
In layman’s terms, we counted trees. We measured stand density and health. These records helped with forest regeneration surveys, woodlot allotment, and planning.
It was a lucky day for me. Ha-ha. Sandy and I were paired together. We were the only all female team.
I thought Jimmy was going to throw himself down on the floor and give us twenty-five when Ben partnered him up with Debbie.
Debbie made frayed denim jeans and scarred leather work boots look like Gucci and Prada. She was a bean-pole blond with laugh lines and a winning smile. She had the unique talent of making everyone around her feel at ease.
I liked her.
Big surprise, Sandy did not.
“I need everyone to hand me their paperwork. We’re going to head out to the first trailer on the left to pick up your area maps. We’ll assign you your trucks as well,” Ben yelled over the din. Each team signed off on the their equipment.
“This way, guys,” he said, collecting the last of the paper work and escorting us outside.
Sandy hung back.
“Come on, Sand, let’s go see where they’re sending us?”
“We’ve still got a week. What’s the rush?”
“What’s your problem?” I asked, annoyed.
“Nothing,” she replied, eyeing Debbie critically.
“What? Debbie? What do you have against her?”
“Oh, come on,” she said, dragging her boots across the floor as we followed everyone else outside. “It’s just, did you see her nails? They are frigging perfect. Everything about her is so frigging perfect.”
A light bulb went off.
“Did you hope you were going to be paired with Jimmy? I thought you didn’t like him the way you were acting.”
“Nooo,” she whined.
In the compound, Ben hurried the other crews into the trailer. He stood patiently waiting for us.
I shrugged helplessly at him.
“Girls?” Ben asked as Sandy ducked under his arm and carried on into the trailer.
“Everything okay, Laura,” he whispered in my ear.
“No sweat, Ben,” I replied smoothly, hoping he didn’t hear the tremor in my voice. Was it okay? I was at a loss.
Inside the trailer, Ben handed out the keys to the trucks and maps of the areas that we were each assigned to.
Because I was the cruiser and senior member of a two man crew, the truck was issued in my name along with a temporary government license. Sandy was given one too, but ultimately the return of the truck and any equipment was mine.
“Yes, Ben,” I chirped innocently, waiting for the hammer to fall.
“We’re short on rentals so I’m giving you one of the Ministry trucks. Don’t make me regret it.”
“S’no problem,” I replied.
“Cruiser arrested for drunk driving,” Colin snorted in disgust. “We’ll take it, eh, Ocean?”
Ocean looked uncomfortable. She had already been paired up with Colin.
“Not happening,’ I replied angrily, instantly feeling sorry for Ocean as the tension in the room was palpable.
I didn’t add that the year before when I was working in Lanark, my partner and I parked our truck at the far end of a local pub’s parking lot in order to do our stand surveys in the provincial forest that backed onto the pub. We had a five hour line to do and it was too dangerous to park the truck on the highway. We never thought about the government sticker on the side of the truck. The big boss called us into the office when we got back because of all the phone calls.
Red-faced we showed the boss our map and aerial photos of where our cruise lines were in relation to the pub as well as all our data sheets. He leaned really close when he examined them, but our sheets clearly showed that we had in fact cruised them.
“Where are we doing our training?” Jimmy asked, changing the subject.
I smiled gratefully at him and he winked back.
“At our base camp. It is twenty minutes north east of Elliot Lake in Mississagi Park. There’s a road map with your cruising maps if you get separated from the group. The camp is circled. Easy-peasy.”
“Enjoy it, people, it’s our last week with indoor plumbing,” Debbie joked.
“Let’s get packed, folks. It’s an hour drive and we have lots to do,” Ben urged.
“I have to stop at the store first, Ben,” Debbie chirped. “I need tampons. I know you’re all going to need them too. Am I right, ladies?”
Every girl smiled. Every guy groaned.
“Thanks,” I whispered to Debbie on the way out, “I didn’t know how to ask.”
“Up front and with gusto, girlfriend,” Debbie added with a grin.
“I like your gusto, Deb,” I responded.
“Laura,” I said, shaking her hand.
“Friends call her Lolly,” Jimmy teased.
“Lolly, it is,” Debbie agreed.
Sandy stalked by me, heading for the parking lot.
“What’s got her knickers in a twist now?” Jimmy inquired.
Debbie roared with laughter.
“I like that. Knickers in a twist. It’s very visual.”
“No idea. Not going to try to figure it out. See you guys at camp,” I offered, rolling my eyes in Sandy’s direction before chasing after her.
“Just PMSing,” Debbie said to Jimmy. “Get used to it, sunshine, you have to live with me in a tent for four months.”
Fifteen minutes and a Tampax stop later, we were on our way.
Sandy and I were the last truck out of the yard. I let Sandy drive, hoping that riding around in a sage green truck with a Ministry of Natural Resources emblem emblazoned on the side would cheer her up.
“Sandy,” I cautioned her as we pulled out of the drugstore parking lot, a long way behind everyone else. “Remember what Ben said.”
“Yep,” she said, her eyes devilishly bright. “But he said it to you.”
She peeled rubber at the stop light and gunned the truck, engine revving loudly, down the highway. The speedometer climbed to seventy miles an hour.
“Not cool,” I screamed at her as we barreled down the road. Luckily traffic was light.
Twenty minutes out of town, OPP sirens peeled behind us and lights flashed.
I wanted to be sick.
Sometimes trying to do the right thing really sucks.
“Sandy, pull over,” I said, the ice in my voice brooking no arguments. My nerves were frayed.
“Watch and learn, sister. We’re up a creek if we get a ticket.”
The cop who pulled up beside us was pissed. He motioned for us to pull over.
Sandy leaned sideways.
“I can’t! I can’t! The accelerator’s stuck,” she screamed at the cop.
“What,” I whispered sharply.
She flashed me a warning look and rolled down her window. She screamed again.
I had visions of being taken away in handcuffs and never working for a government agency again.
“It’s stuck!”Sandy pointed down at the accelerator. “What do we do?”
Understanding blossomed on the cop’s face. He made pumping motions with his hand, his face turning from anger to concern in a split second.
Sandy shot him a quick thumbs-up sign.
“Are you out of your ever loving mind?” I muttered to my crew mate.
Sandy faked pumping the accelerator and then the brakes. She slowed down and pulled over to the shoulder, the cop car pulling over in front of us.
“Just follow my lead, Lolly,” she grinned. “We are friends, right? I can call you that?”
I didn’t have time to answer.
With one foot, Sandy slid her jacket out from under the seat and onto the floor by the accelerator pedal.
The cop walked over to the truck. My hands shook when he opened my door.
“You okay, Miss?” His voice was steeped in concern.
“Yeah, thanks,” I croaked, misery creeping into every fiber of my being.
“Oh, officer, the accelerator got stuck and I was afraid to pull over and I didn’t know what to do and if I hurt this truck, I’ll get fired and,…” Sandy sing-songed.
“S’okay. You did the right thing.”
“My jacket fell off the seat and I reached down to pick it up, but it got stuck,” she cried.
The cop shook his head.
“License and registration,” he asked us.
I pulled out the registration from the glove compartment and Sandy handed over her Ministry license.
I stoically sat in my seat, my lips sealed as if I were in Judge Judy’s court, every foolish comment my accuser made a point in my favor.
“You aren’t going to give me a ticket are you? Seriously, I’ll lose my job,” Sandy said, her lower lip quivering.
“Just roll up that jacket and put it behind the seat and slow down, young lady,” the officer said, handing back the registration papers and Sandy’s license. “I’ll let you off with a warning, but be more careful. You ladies could have been killed.”
“I will, I will.”
“Thanks, sir,” I nodded at the officer.
He hitched up his gun belt as he walked towards the cruiser.
I sighed with relief.
“Like I said, just follow my lead,” Sandy grinned and turned the key in the ignition.
I wanted to turn off the engine, but was too shaky to take over driving.
Sandy pulled slowly out onto the highway, the cop tucking his cruiser in behind us. We waved good-bye to the officer. He raised a hand and waved, then followed us down the highway for another twenty minutes.
When the cruiser was out of sight, Sandy put the pedal to the floor and we almost missed the turnoff to Elliot Lake.
As we headed up the last winding curve towards the camp, I started to giggle. I couldn’t help it. Laughter bubbled out of me like skittles in soda pop.
Sandy started to laugh too.
“Oh, no,” Sandy said, tears streaming down her face.
“I have to pee.”
Sandy pulled over. We leapt into the bushes at the side of the road. As we dropped our drawers, Ben’s Ministry of Natural Resources truck pulled up beside ours.
“We are so busted,” I cried.
“Are we done yet, girls?” Ben said, leaning out the window. A smile crinkled his lips.
Sandy’s head popped out from behind a small spruce tree. I pulled an alder sapling over sideways to cover my bottom and peeked around the scruff of leaves.
“Duh, give us a minute, Ben,” Sandy scolded.
Ben laughed and shook his head.
“I didn’t think I’d have to be rescuing one of my teams this early in the game. You have something to tell me?”
“Yeah, Laura’s got a kidney infection. This is our twelfth frigging stop.”
“I do not,” I whined.
Ben waved us away.
“Camp’s fifteen minutes up the road. See you there. Have either of you seen Jason and Debbie? They aren’t here yet either.”
“No,” we said in unison.
Ben disappeared up the road.
“See, we aren’t last. Stop worrying.”
“By a tortoise’s breath on a hair’s ass,” I said.
This prompted another fit of giggles.
We drove up to the base camp. The camp was picturesque. A large cook house and several smaller bunkhouses overlooked a small lake with docking facilities. We parked in the employees parking lot beside the other trucks lined up in a row outside of the bunk houses.
The lunch bell was ringing so we made our way directly to the cook house.
Ben sauntered into the dining room with Jason and Debbie in tow half way through supper.
Jason got a speeding ticket.
Sandy and I wondered if it was the same cop that stopped us and unanimously decided not to discuss it.
I felt an ulcer coming on.
After a couple of days of training and orienteering, we were ready to do some sample test plots which included a two mile compass traverse through the bush.
Ben started the crews ten minutes apart with the intent that we would all meet up at the end of the course.
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.
Ever play a game of telephone when you were a kid? You know the one. ‘A barrel full of monkeys’ ends up ‘Barney’s blowing chunkies’ at the end of a chain of whispering the first line into a wide circle of adolescent ears.
Imagine setting six sets of two person teams into the bush with just a compass and a map and then expecting them to come out at the same point at the end.
Let’s face it. Some have short legs. Some have long legs. Some have boundless energy when crawling through bramble thickets and falling over stumps, while others like to meander and pick dirt from under their fingernails at regular intervals (not all being women, by the way).
It was a free-for-all.
Sandy and I were Crew Six. Jimmy and Deb were Crew Five.
Jimmy was the cruiser and Deb was the compassman. They started ten minutes in front of us.
In our case, I was the cruiser and Sandy was my compassman.
“Okay, girls,” Ben said to us. “See you at the finish line.”
“You bet’cha,” I agreed, wondering why he was singling us out when in the distance, a chorus of “Hey, Ocean, where are you?”, “Shit!” and “Damn” could be heard echoing through the forest.
I watched Ben jump into his 4×4 and drive away with a knot in my stomach.
Sandy examined the map, took a compass bearing and waited. And waited. And waited.
In the distance, I heard Jimmy shout at Deb.
“Are you sure you know where you’re going?”
“Of course, I do, I’m just following the footprints,” she yelled back.
“That doesn’t mean they know where they’re all going,” he called back.
“Then at least, we’ll all be together,” she shouted brightly.
Sandy looked up at the cloudy sky.
I knew she was stalling.
“Did you bring your rain gear,” she asked.
“Yeah, it’s in my pack,” I responded. “Think it’s going to rain? The clouds are pretty high.”
“I think we’re going to be out here a long time and by the time we finish, it’s going to be pissing cats and dogs.”
“Are we going to follow the footprints too?” I joked.
“Not on your life,” she commented dryly.
“Let’s rock and roll then,” I offered with a grin, wondering if I really should have been that happy to be paired with Sandy. There was something ‘off’ about her, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Sandy smiled back, and we set off.
It’s a strange feeling walking into miles and miles of open country, with nothing but trust in a little circular black instrument with a plastic face and tiny red needle pointing north to guide you were you’re going.
One missed step can leave you with a broken leg or ankle, stranded five miles or more through brush and thickets from the nearest bush road or a hundred miles from the nearest doctor or hospital. Your life depends upon your partner’s ability to get you there and that little red needle.
Two years earlier, I worked Creel Census in Lanark, a small town an hour’s drive from Ottawa. I basically travelled around in a boat all day, admiring the cottages along the shore, talking to fisherman and measuring the fish they caught for length, weight and health to help determine fish stocks. It was fun and I went home at night to a hot shower and a warm bed.
I wasn’t in cottage country anymore.
I followed Sandy into a thick stand of poplar and birch. The ground beneath our boots was black and muddy. There were still patches of dirty snow in the dark hollows under the thorn laced thickets and around the base of spruce and balsam trees. The nights were bitter cold with temperatures dipping to the freezing mark.
Rivulets of water ran down the hills to the north of us.
The air smelled crisp and fresh, but had an under-lying odour of damp earth and mud.
“This way,” she said, confidently.
Sandy didn’t fool around. Her certainty relieved a lot of my anxiety. I realized suddenly that maybe I was glad that I was paired up with her. She seemed to know the bush.
Here and there, boot prints from the crews ahead of us could be seen in the swampier areas. They criss-crossed each other at odd angles and uneven intervals.
Through it all, Sandy maintained her bearing, stopping every so often to consult the all-terrain map.
A deep hole in the muck and a socked footprint showed where the mud had sucked the boot right off of someone’s foot. I tried to remember if I put a spare set of socks in my day pack?
We ducked under the bows of a stand of white pines. Thick beds of needles scraped along our hard hats. Pine scent wafted over us. It was a beautiful moment. I thought of my mother trimming the tree last Christmas.
The only sounds we heard were those of our labored breathing and the chirp of birds.
We stepped out of the woods and into a thicket of brambles along the banks of a small stream. Water cascaded in a small waterfall over a broken old log.
Deb sat on her tush on the other side of the stream, draining the water out of her boot. Jimmy hovered over her, concern on his face.
Deb laughed when she saw us.
“Darn log broke underneath me,” she said.
I smacked Sandy in the arm before she made a smart crack. She just rolled her eyes at me.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Deb said, looking up at me.
Deb tugged on her wet boot and stumbled to her feet. Jimmy steadied her with a ready hand.
“Oh, this is gross,” she said, wrinkling up her brow. “It’s like walking in jello.”
“I bet,” Sandy quipped.
“You guys know where you’re going?” Jimmy asked.
“Deb thought her compass was wrong when the other crews went farther east than where we are now.”
“What did Ben keep stressing to you in our meetings?” Sandy asked, impatiently.
“Always believe your compass,” Deb and I said in unison.
“But what if there’s magnetite underneath us and it’s affecting our readings,” Deb asked, her voice trembling.
“You only have to worry about magnetite around the cliffs and on fault faces,” Sandy counseled.
This time Sandy was more patient.
“You aren’t going to have any footprints to follow next week, Debbie,” Sandy said quietly. “Do it now, on your own.”
“You’re right,” Deb sighed.
“You guys going to be okay?” I nodded to Jimmy.
“We’ll be fine,” he responded.
“Thanks, guys,” Debbie said, squaring her shoulders. “You’re right, Sandy, I do have to do this on my own.”
“It’s your job,” Sandy reiterated.
I waved over my shoulder as Sandy and I struck out again, following the path the compass defined.
Behind us, I heard Debbie say to Jimmy, “We’re going this way.”
“Yeah, but that’s in the opposite direction of everyone else’s tracks and way off from where Sandy and Laura are going.”
“I don’t care. This is where the compass is pointing and that’s where we are going,” she demanded.
Sandy and I continued on our course.
“You think we’ll ever see those two again?” I asked Sandy when we stopped for a water break.
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“Looks like we’re on the right track at any rate.”
A gully yawned open before us. Down in the gully, saplings were snapped in half and snow banks were kicked apart by uncaring feet.
“You ever been lost out here?”
“No,” Sandy said, after a moment. She looked me in the eye. “I worked here last year, but in the office. You?”
“No. I worked Fish & Wildlife in southern Ontario. You could always hear a highway.”
We put our water bottles away and climbed down into the gully.
“I thought you worked in the bush last year.”
“I manned the radio and did the night service, plus checked and re-checked everyone’s reports.”
“By the way you talked, I thought you were old hat at this.”
“Next week, we really are going to be on our own. I wasn’t kidding when I told Deb that we have to take this seriously. There are no roads where we’ll be.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
On the plus side, Sandy’s honesty was appreciated and it was nice to realize that the wisecracker attitude was just a front.
We continued on in silence after that.
Sometimes we followed other teams’ tracks and sometimes we made our own.
I pondered over what it was to be lost in the bush, especially on a fly-in where we were hundreds of miles in the bush.
Would I panic?
Would I be able to stay in one place or would I keep trying to walk out?
What if we got lost on the second day of our ten day stretch and the weather turned making rescue impossible? Could we survive?
What if we lit a signal fire and the jack pine and balsam fir ignited, turning the world around us into Dante’s inferno?
I pictured myself squatting by a stream, filling my hardhat full of water, and turning around to throw it on an ever-growing avalanche of flames.
“Shit, girlfriend, you okay?”
Sandy rushed back to me.
“Drink some water. You’re overheated.”
She was right. I was burning up. We had been crawling up hills and down gullies for three hours already, wading through marsh and scrub brush. I was dehydrated.
Wow! It crept up fast!
I opened my pack and grabbed a fresh water bottle. I swished my mouth out and then polished off the rest.
A spattering of raindrops fell from the clouds.
Sandy and I donned our yellow rain gear.
“Sorry about that,” I offered.
“Just tell me if you need to rest for a moment,” she said, concerned.
“And think of how buffed I’ll be at the end of the summer.”
“And no tan lines.”
We clinked water bottles together.
“No tan lines.”
Finally, muddied and quiet, we emerged onto the bush road within a few yards of the previous four teams and within a yard of a bright yellow flag.
The sun broke out as we did so. It was a welcome relief from the dreariness of tramping through the sodden bush.
Ben and two other crew leaders lounged in their trucks, windows rolled down. The rest sat on the road munching on apples and granola bars.
“What is this,” Ben joked good-naturedly, “did all you guys play follow the leader? You came out within fifty feet of each other.”
“Not everyone,” I offered, jumping up onto the tailgate of Ben’s truck.
“Jimmy and Debbie are on an Arctic expedition,” Sandy grumbled through a mouthful of granola.
Everyone but Ben laughed. Ben checked his watch, his face dark with concern.
The rest of us stripped off our rain gear and jackets and lounged in the sun.
“We’ll give them half an hour and then we go look for them,” Ben said.
“Can’t we just leave them to eat each other. You know, survival of the fittest, like the Donner party,” Colin suggested.
We all burst into a fit of giggles until we realized that Colin was serious.
“Colin, that is very cruel,” Colin’s partner, Ocean, gently criticized, her voice as soft as a kitten’s mew.
Ocean was as gentle as her name suggested. She was a tall willowy girl with long auburn hair and a gentle compassion for everyone and every living thing.
It was an odd match and I pitied Ocean. Colin was a jerk.
“It’s not cruel. If we ever get lost for more than a couple of days, I will eat you if I have to.”
There was stunned silence.
Ben glanced sideways at Colin. He then studied each and every one of us. For a moment, Ben’s and my eyes met. I sensed that we were thinking the same thing. Find Ocean another partner and delegate Colin to the office!
A series of oaths came from the surrounding bush.
Debbie and Jimmy stumbled out of an alder thicket, worn and frazzled. Sweat dripped from their brows. Neither spoke.
Sandy started to hum ‘Born to be Wild’ by Steppenwolf.
I elbowed her in the side. She grinned, her face beaming with happiness.
It hit me like a runaway freight train! Sandy really did have the hots for Jimmy. Duh! I got it. I finally got it!
“Alright everyone, nap time is over. In the trucks,” Ben commanded. “We still have a full afternoon ahead of us. We’re heading back to the park and everyone will get a chance to drive a Terrajet. Those of you who aren’t on fly-ins will probably, at some point in the summer, have to use one.”
“Woohoo!” one cruiser cried out.
“Awesome!” Deb cheered up.
“They aren’t bumper cars,” Ben growled.
“But I want everyone to have a ride for their money!”
“Only your partner,” Ben admonished Debbie.
“Not happening,” Jimmy growled.
“God help you, Jimmy,” someone joked.
“I’ve driven one. They are a riot. Terrajets can go through almost anything, unfortunately, they do sink,” Sandy said.
“And how would you know that?” I asked her, alarmed.
Sandy shrugged guiltily.
“Sandy. Laura. You’re in the truck with me,” Ben ordered.
My heart sank.
Three trucks sped down the highway; Ben was in the lead. As Ben drove a single cab 4×4, there was only room for the three of us in the cab. Sandy sat between Ben and I, her legs splayed open because of the 4×4 stick shift on the floor.
“Sandy,” Ben said her name as if it was a divine prayer.
“Ben,” Sandy replied.
“Sandy. No James Bonding this year.”
“For you, anything.”
“Glad to hear it.”
I pulled a squished ham sandwich from my coat pocket and unwrapped the waxed paper.
“You may not want to eat that,” Ben offered.
“Why?” I asked through a mouthful of sandwich.
Sandy and Ben started to giggle.
“Terrajets are bush buggies. They have a stick shift, a brake pedal and a steering wheel. They are noisy as hell and bounce you around like a ball in a spinning barrel,” Ben informed me.
“The brakes take a while to work so when you need to stop, don’t aim it at the lake,” Sandy added sagely.
“There aren’t any seat belts and they tip easily too,” Ben nudged Sandy good-naturedly.
“Oh,” was all I could think of to say as I tucked my sandwich away.
I looked in the rearview mirror. The others were gobbling down their sandwiches.
“Should we stop to tell the others?”
“Nope,” Ben and Sandy said together.
“To quote Ocean, ‘that’s really mean’.”
Ben and Sandy laughed.
When we arrived at the gravel pits, I noticed that the walls were at about a sixty degree angle. A gravel track wound its way through the middle of the pit in a casual loop. The walls of the pit were overgrown with hardy grasses and shoots of willow. A few scattered boulders nestled against the sides of the road and at the base of the walls.
It was a great test site for Terrajetting, unless Mario Andretti was your driver.
Once again, crews went in order of their number. Sandy and I were last.
Crew after crew spilled their beans over the side of the Terrajet. I appreciated Sandy for warning me. Ben, I wasn’t so sure about anymore, given the delight he and Sandy were sharing over the contents of each spew.
Colin and a white-faced Ocean careened towards us. He was driving. We dived out of the way as he barreled right through the middle of our group. I swear he was trying to hit us on purpose. He missed Sean by a few inches. More than ever, I felt Ben should relieve him of duties.
“Crew six, you’re up,” Ben yelled at Sandy and I after giving Colin a stern warning.
“Did you move the testing site to the pit just for me?” Sandy asked Ben, batting her eyes.
“Yep, just for you, darling.”
“I’m driving,” I said, stepping into the driver’s seat, but Sandy hip-checked me out of the way.
I nervously got into the passenger seat. I looked around for a seatbelt and then remembered that there weren’t any.
Sandy turned on the engine and gunned it up the main road, far away from prying eyes. The noise was deafening. I thought my kidneys were going to sprout out of my eye sockets as we bounced from side-to-side.
I glanced over my shoulder at the empty roadbed and stark grey stone walls of the pit.
I placed my feet against the dash and pressed my spine hard against the seat back to keep from being bounced right out of the machine as Sandy aimed for the steep slope. Sandy laughed like a madwoman beside me.
“Slow down, you’re going too fast,” I cried.
“Hang on, we’re going to the top!”
“The top of what?” I screamed.
Sandy grinned and raced up the side of the pit.
“I don’t want to go to the flipping top of the pit,” I wailed, my stomach clenching. I was so glad I didn’t eat that sandwich.
We made it three quarters of the way up and then the Terrajet’s wheels started to spin on the loose shale.
Sandy whoo-hooed in delight. She clenched the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles turned white. She tried to turn the wheel, but it jumped out of her hands.
The Terrajet’s engine screeched.
The buggy tipped sideways.
“Throw your weight towards me,” Sandy hollered.
I grabbed hold of the top of the windshield and threw my shoulder against hers.
The buggy turned on two wheels, but didn’t flip.
We careened down the pit’s walls in a landslide of gravel and loose shale. We bounced off the roadbed, out-of-control, the right tire catching a boulder. Metal screamed in protest as we slammed to a sudden halt. I hurtled over the windshield and tucked myself into a ball in the air, knowing the landing was going to hurt. It did. I landed on the gravel with a thud and rolled to a stop.
‘Lord, what kind of madwoman am I working with,’ I wondered as I sat up. The ground whirled around me like I was on a merry-go-round.
I picked myself up, dusted off my jeans and jacket, and then checked myself all over for broken bones. I was still a bit dazed, but thankful that nothing appeared broken.
“Aw, heck,” I muttered, examining the dented fender.
Sandy turned off the revving motor and looked over the damage.
“It’s only a little dent.”
“You are frigging crazy, you know that?”
“Yeah, but we’re going to have a great time together,” Sandy laughed, rubbing her ribcage. “Oh, man, I think I bruised my ribs.”
“You know we’re getting paid for this? How cool is that?”
We worked together and pushed the Terrajet off the rock.
“Don’t even go there,” I said, getting into the driver’s seat and starting up the engine.
“Spoilsport,” she said.
I took off slowly, but by the time I got around the bend, I had the pedal to the floor. I forgot about the braking part and careened into a patch of alder on the far side of the road just before I hit Ben and the others.
Ben raced over to us and switched off the motor.
“Good God, what were you thinking, lady,” he growled, ruing the day he put two girls together on a crew.
“Sorry, I forgot about the no braking part,” I wheedled. And then it hit me and I grinned. I’d never been called a lady before.
“And we didn’t put the dent in it either,” Sandy said, defensively. “Just so you know.”
“What dent?” Ben said angrily.
The weather turned from rain with a chance of flurries to Bermuda balmy overnight as it does quite often in the Canadian northern shield region.
The poplar, alder, oak and maple trees began to unravel their leaves. Cedar trees released buckets of yellow pollen.
The bears came out of hibernation. They were sleepy, grumpy and incredibly hungry. Unpredictable at the best of times, they were worst in the spring.
Bears whose dens were close to town or the provincial parks looked for easy pickings at local garbage dumps and campsite dumpster bins.
The northern black bear is not Whinnie The Pooh. Beautiful, yes, with sleek and glossy, almost blue-black silken coats and dark liquid eyes, but dangerous and contrary by nature.
The Great Lakes region gets flooded with Great White Hunters, all itching to shoot a spring bear at this time of year. Some of these fine hunters sit drinking beer in their trucks at the dump until the first poor sod of a bear wanders in front of their truck, and then BLAM, the bear is dead, skinned, its carcass left to rot. Other hunters are in it for the hunt and meat. These men and women slink through the bush until they find their target, leaving nothing behind when done, neither pelt, bone nor meat wasted.
These days, eco-tourism is the buzz word, and the camera has replaced the rifle as the weapon of choice.
On this fine sunny spring morning at six a.m., we awoke to a series of high pitched shrieks. It sounded like the world was coming to an end.
All twelve of us dashed out of the bunk house in various stages of dress, from night robes to shorts, lace camisoles to jeans.
Ben raced out of the senior officer’s quarters zipping up the fly on his jeans, shirt undone.
Even through sleep encrusted eyes and a befuddled brain, I smiled. The man was hot!
Yeah, I was engaged at the time, but a woman can look, can’t she?
Ben took in the kitchen’s shredded screen door and the shattered boards of the inside wooden door. The cook’s keys were still dangling in the lock. “Get back everyone,” he immediately cautioned.
Another shriek and a series of loud thumps came from inside the cook house. The thumps were followed by a bawling noise, much like a calf makes when it is afraid and can’t find its mother.
“Seriously back-off, guys!” Ben commanded.
All at once, the half-closed door banged open and a bear raced out of the cook house. It slipped and slid on buttery, maple sugar covered paws. Spots of white flour speckled its black coat. Syrup dripped from its lips.
Our middle-aged, slightly over-weight, five foot three inch German cook whose pastry was fit for the gods and whose stew was more scrumptious than my grandmother’s, raced out after the bear. She beat it across the ass with a straw broom, screaming in German at the top of her lungs!
The young bear, no more than two years-old as he was small, weighing maybe 300 lbs, bolted across the parking lot, heading for the forest as fast as he could.
Ingrid shook a fist at the bear, and then looped the broom under one arm. She noticed us standing there, mouths gaping open in shock, and smoothed back her hair.
“No hot breakfast this morning, ya? D’ere is Quaker Oats, maybe.”
“Uh, can we help you clean up in there, Ingrid?” Ben asked, a little shaken.
“Ya, that would be nice. You kids can clean the dining room, I v’ill look after the kitchen and put some coffee on,” Ingrid agreed before disappearing back into the cook house.
We looked at each other innocently and then began to laugh.
“Ya,” Ben mimicked Ingrid. “Get dressed boys and girls, we’ve got some cleaning up to do.”
Several minutes later, we were back to help Ingrid clean up. The cook house was trashed.
Twenty pounds of flour was scattered across the dining room and kitchen like fresh snow. It layered the counters and table tops like Mother Nature had waved her magic wand and turned the cook house into a white wonderland. It seemed fitting that an empty Robin Hood bag sat open in the middle of the main aisle given what fun the bear had obviously had. Butter and margarine clumped with the flour into cookie dough mounds in places. Maple syrup dripped off of counters and congealed into sticky piles of goo.
A garbage can was over turned in the corner. Used coffee grounds and left-over spaghetti from last night’s dinner created orange and black webs across the floor. It reminded me of a Dali painting.
Two large maple syrup paw prints skidded across the floor by the far wall. Several pieces of straw broom were intermingled with the prints. There was one giant print about six feet off the floor which meant the bear had to have been standing on its hind feet.
Sandy and I exchanged a look.
It didn’t take a genius to figure it out. Ingrid had cornered the bear. She beat it with the broom while it stood bawling on its hind feet.
“Remind me to keep my mouth shut if Ingrid ever makes something that I don’t like,” Sandy whispered.
“Ditto,” I said.
The pit in my stomach widened, not all of it from hunger.