In the Land of the Black Bear Part 3


The Bushman, 1972

Out of the Bush the Bushman emerges, 1973:


The massacre began on a Saturday in mid September 1972: the chainsaw massacre. Over the next year we would slaughter many tens of lodge pole pines in the process of road construction. Our objective to build a house a quarter of a mile from the nearest road

could be realized only with the use of tools adequate to the task for creating  a driveway over a thousand feet long. The first task would be to clear a path through the brambles, bushes and fallen timbers to the house site. The carcasses of 60-80 foot long trees which had been cut near the road and left to rot on the ground presented the first challenge. In some spots the rotting corpses of these long hemlock trees had fallen, one hung up on top of the other presenting a continuous barrier over 3 foot high. Bush whacking could be done with a machete but slicing up dead fallen trees 16 inches in diameter required machinery. Hydro electric power was not an option. It would take a year before we would have electricity on the property. The mild mannered teacher would have to yield. The Bushman was born. He bought a machete and a chainsaw and began the preliminary work for road building.


Working in the bush on weekends, by mid October we had gained a path to the house site by cutting and piling the fallen trees into manageable logs and moving them out of the right of way for later disposal. The next phase would be acquiring the skills necessary to build a house out of logs, preferably logs harvested from the property. With chainsaw in hand, the neophyte Bushman repaired to the area to be developed  to practice the arts of the lumberjack and of the log builder. Did I hear you again say “more guts than brains?”

The urban dweller found it hard to abandon habits that had developed over the nearly 20 years in captivity in urban Southern Ontario. Fall routines in mainstream urban life for a sport fanatic included the obligatory World Series. In October on Saturdays and Sundays when the sun had burned off the morning fog and dried the morning dew from the moss, the Bushman toted a battery powered short wave radio into the bush, hanging it on one of the lower branches of an aspen tree. Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds were playing for the World Series. Curt Gowdy was the play by play announcer and Joe Garagiola did his usual unique and quirky additions to the drab offerings so typical of radio broadcasts of baseball games.

That Gene Tenace performed well and was named most valuable player and that the Oakland Athletics defeated the Cincinnati Reds seemed incongruous in the middle of a bush on the outskirts of a small city in the Northern Interior of British Columbia. In fact, the Apprentice Bushman had started to note elements of his transformation in the silences that surrounded him. At the work area where yellow aspen leaves still heavy with morning frost were falling, the slow percussive beginning to the frenzied percussive crescendo of male Ruffed Grouse in the vicinity of the work site soon replaced the babbling of Gowdy and Garagiola. For Thanksgiving the obligatory turkey was supplemented with a Ruffed Grouse shot off a log by the Bushman’s sling shot, though not to his credit since it required two shots at the bird aptly called “Fool Hen”  which waited patiently for its demise on the log after the first shot, while the Bushman reloaded.

Play house out of Lodgepole Pine, Red Rock, 1972

The apprentice bushman built a small log play house using trees that he fell from clearing the proposed house site, the first structure that he had ever built. Over the winter, back in the city we had a desire to get out of our row house apartment and anxious to get on with life in the country. We made the decision to abandon plans to build a log house after discussing the onerous nature of handling huge logs, our lack of knowledge of log building techniques,  the man/woman/machine power which would be needed for log house construction and the projected length of time to finish the building.

The apprentice bushman and his wife considered a variety of modular options to speed up the house building process and finally chose materials for a prefabricated milled, cedar, tongue in groove house which we would assemble in 1973.

That Christmas we drove from the City to cut a Christmas tree from the property while visions of sugar-plum danced in our heads. Winter dragged on interminably. Next year  in Red Rock would be our cry!


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