For those who say my job isn’t dangerous, keep reading.
Most people will be aware that The Salvation Army fed hundreds during the snowstorm: soup and bannock, bangers and mash, and turkey casserole were just some of the tasty dishes on offer.
Nobody will be aware that I nearly fed my own hungry horde, although the menu would have been rather less varied and certainly much rarer.
“As head chef, I am delighted to serve for today’s special … Fried Englishman, sometimes known as English Toast, extremely overdone.”
Not that the ravenous masses before me would have understood my announcement.
As far as I know, Coyotes, or any other critter unfussed about gamy, ageing meat, low in proteins, high in gristle and fat, tend not to speak English.
So, how did my potential dual status as chef and overdone special come about?
Well, on Wednesday afternoon, returning from the park, I pulled to the side of Highway 21 to take close-up photos of fallen power lines.
I clambered down an embankment and casually stepped over poles and lengths of wire half-hidden in the snow, keen to provide photographic proof of “the storm of the century” – one of the more high-octane descriptions of the crisis that I had heard.
Since I had yet to witness heaps of rubble or shattered buildings, or even a disturbed toupee, fallen poles would have to do. Besides, weren’t they the story of the storm?
As I clicked away, my shoes were millimetres from the silver, snake-like cords, or at least the visible parts of them.
They seemed to dare me. Just give us a kick … just a little tap with the tip of your scuffed Hill Country Clothing boot. Go on, I double-dare you, sucker. I triple-dare you, weasel face.
Only then did I question my sanity. Had the storm damaged the wiring in my brain? Should I phone SaskPower right now and ask for a lineman capable of entering my skull to reconnect dangling bits and pieces?
I suddenly felt like I did swimming in the Caribbean years ago, surrounded by an encircling army of vibrantly coloured jellyfish. One touch … and great pain. Or in this case, one touch and Fried Englishman. Burned to a crisp. Cremated, not buried.
I pictured a little pile of smouldering, gooey flesh, a solitary singed hair sticking defiantly out into the spring sunshine. I pictured too a black toque nearby, contrasting with the white glare of the snow, and a few feet farther on a soggy notebook.
Ah well, there’s no cure for stupidity, they say. It can make any job dangerous, even mine.
So yes, I could argue that my job carries more risk than that of a lineman or bullrider, and is worthy of a Queen’s bravery citation, to be awarded at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
With this in mind, I lurched over the scattered debris of wood and wire – my version of a pole dance – and stumbled back up the embankment, greeting each non-fatal step with as much joy Neil Armstrong must have felt walking on the moon.
A refrain entered my head to accompany my retreat. “Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, who’s the stupidest of them all …”
Still, I suppose if one of those silver snakes had hissed underfoot, it would have been a spark-tacular way to go.
“Electrocuted by folly” … “He died on the job” … not bad inscriptions for my headstone. Or how about: “It is what it is. What the hell”?
I should also request that the headstone be decorated with a black toque, and perhaps a soggy notebook carved in relief.
When I relayed my misadventure to Major Ed, he shook his head and wondered how long it would have been before someone asked: “Whatever happened to that reporter?”
The answer, of course, might have depended on the eating habits of coyotes and their liking for extremely overdone Fried Englishman, with a slightly singed hair on top.
• Owing to the nature of the storm SaskPower says there is a potential that customers may come across downed lines. If you do happen to see one of these lines, stay back at least 33 feet and call SaskPower at 310 – 2220.
A man’s gotta know his limitations, Dirty Harry once assured me. After last week’s events, I tweaked his saying so that it now read “A driver’s gotta know his car’s limitations.”
Such tweaking occurred after I drove to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park on Wednesday to inspect storm damage.
I didn’t get far. Just far enough to see a few fallen tree branches, before SQUELCH … my Ford Fiesta’s wheels began spinning in a bog. The track had seemed innocent, but the broth of snow and mud was deceptively deep and squelchy.
Backwards, forwards, it didn’t matter, my predicament only got worse.
As I felt a twinge of despair, a vehicle suddenly materialised before me. A SaskPower truck, of course, a familiar sight of late.
A young man got out. I braced for a reprimand, but he offered assistance, and after a few shoves that an NHL enforcer would have admired, coupled with my frantic reversing, he helped get me unstuck. Free at last, I thought, free at last – and free to continue driving to the park exit, and stop being a nuisance to the world. My expedition was over for the day.
So, thank you, kind stranger of the storm, thank you for going beyond the call of power lines duty.
Thank you also to Dirty Harry. You’re right, Harry Callahan. A man’s gotta know his limitations. Or at least his Ford Fiesta’s limitations.
No sooner had the words flown from my mouth than I knew I had gaffed. The two seconds of shocked silence in the command centre at the fire hall were the clue.
I had just blurted out about the coldness of my shower that morning.
“Shower?” said deputy mayor Len Barkman after the two seconds had elapsed. “You are not meant to be taking a shower. Water restrictions are in place.”
Oh Lordy, I thought. I really should have read that yellow flyer distributed by the Plymouth Brethren to my apartment block.
“Well, it wasn’t a long shower,” I stammered. “Just in and out. Thirty seconds or so. The water was absolutely freezing.”
Someone mentioned Seinfeld, and soon everyone was laughing about an episode that referenced swimming, the shrinkage factor, and frightened turtles.
I too remembered a couple of lines.
“Significant shrinkage,” from George.
“I don’t know how you guys walk around with those things,” from Elaine. Suddenly, George Costanza’s angst had replaced my own. Suddenly, the only thing shrinking was my guilt over taking a very cold shower.
Kiyam. It may only be one Cree word, but what a word it is, especially when accompanied by a sweeping “let it be, let it be” gesture.
It seems to say such a lot, describing an attitude, an approach to life.
This lesson in Cree came courtesy of Angie Bergen during supper at The Salvation Army on Thursday.
I can now add it to my first two Cree words: Kokum (grandmother) and Mushum (grandfather).
Thanks to Major Charlotte, I also picked up a fourth word, Tanisi, (“Hello, how are you?”) from her children’s book, “Stolen Words.”
When I next meet Chief Alvin Francis or Dale Mosquito I can try out this greeting … and if I forget the word, or mangle it beyond recognition, well not to worry.
Kiyam, kiyam (plus requisite hand movement).
Something is amiss with my mental alarm clock. Either that or I keep hitting “snooze” by mistake.
Twice I set my alarm for 6.15am and twice it let me down, which meant I twice missed the opportunity of photographing linemen having breakfast at The Salvation Army. On the first occasion, I arrived unwashed, semi-dressed and barely alive at 7am, thinking I might catch a few stragglers, only for Major Ed to welcome me inside the front entrance with the words: “Snooze, you lose.”
The second time I awoke shortly before 5am. Being half-dead, I awarded myself an extra five minutes in bed, and by the time I was conscious again it was nearly 8am. I didn’t dare present myself that day at The Salvation Army.
At least, I learned one thing: I was never destined to be a lineman. Even if I had a head for heights, and could handle the stress, as well as high winds, rain and snow, I could never get up in time.
Much easier to push a camera button, preferably at a civilized afternoon hour.