Passages of note

Fine words have an ability to move you. They can pick you up, take you somewhere wonderful, or dump you down in a pit of despair. It could be an elegant combination of a few words, or a beautiful meandering passage that paints the perfect picture.

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When reading I’ve often come across such passages, in various books or poems. I tend to take a moment, maybe re-read the part again, savour it, and then move on with the book. This is probably what anyone else does. Unfortunately, given a memory that could hardly be called photographic, often I move on without committing the passage to memory. This then means I cannot recall it exactly. Sure I get the gist, and I know how it moved me and why, but the exact form of the object of my inspiration is lost. A blurry picture of a muse from my youth.

 

 

Recently I received a notebook from my mum, from when she visited Peru. Its quite pretty, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Too large for regular note taking, not robust 20170812_181155.jpgenough for writing my blog posts into (each gets written up by hand first before being copied onto here). It sat idle, gathering dust, in a corner of my room. But now I have found a purpose for it. Into it I am copying down the passages of note that I come across. Be they from a dark but enlightened Bukowski poem, a stirring address from Jefferson, or a perfect portrait by Hemingway, they shall be lost to me no longer.

 

See below for the first half-dozen! Feel free to share any you have.

 

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A few books, and my trusty kindle

 

 

This began with me searching through books I’ve already read for passages I remembered. Finding the Sinclair Ross quote (the first picture) took me two hours of flicking and scanning pages…. From now on I will make a note as I find each passage.

Saturday night’s alright for fighting

 

On Saturday, 1st April, there was an event which gave you a few more stories than most Saturday nights. It was the 22nd, and my 2nd, instalment of Dynamite fights, a series of boxing matches organised at the TNT Boxing Academy in Guelph, Ontario. Read a rather breathless summary of the last one here. If it was anything like that last one, this means the potential for thrills and technical kills, displays of superior skill and brutal power. This one carried an extra special edge to it however, as TNT got international. Thanks to Boxing Canada, one of the fights featured a boxer specially flown in from England. Jade Ashmore arrived Thursday to face Canadian Olympian Mandy Bujold. Given that Bujold is a ten-time national champion and a two-time Pan-American champion, while Ashmore has recently been elevated to the GB Podium Potential squad, expectations and excitement were running high. A sprinkle of glamour to complement the scent of canvas and sweat.

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Full house at TNT. Picture from twitter.com/MercerRecord

The promise of a trans-Atlantic war wasn’t the only thing that had got the locals excited. Got them skipping dinner to head down to the ring at 5:00pm to grab the last of the seats. Got them snapping up every ticket left, right and centre. Some 200, maybe 250 in attendance. They were drawn by the prospect of epics, of grudge matches, of super heavyweights, young unknowns and old favourites. It’s a heady cocktail, and the place was buzzing. Standing room only, onlookers jostling on benches at the back, craning necks round corners to catch a glimpse of the action. Hungry for a taste of it, feeding off the glamour, the aggro, the coiled energy from the boxers stalking though their warm-up routines. There are many different routes to a properly entertaining fight, and we were blessed with a full range of match-ups.

 

First there are the unknowns. Three fights featured two out of town fighters, so their prospects were harder to judge prematurely. We scrutinised the fighters beforehand, trying to judge who was faster, cleaner, meaner, by their warm-up and the set of their jaws, like watching thoroughbreds out in the circle before the Derby. The bell rings and we lean forward eagerly, keen to have our hunches upheld or quashed. In the first we’re proven right, Dustin Howick of Caged Dragon, living up to the gym’s name, came out like a hurricane, flying into Hansel Espino, Gideons, from the off, cashing the cheques his uber focused warm-up wrote. This brutal assault won applause from the crowd, but a puzzling lack of response from Espino in blue. His corner exhorts him to get over his trigger shyness, but he never does, and Howick takes the unanimous decision.

The other two fights involving non-TNT boxers follow similar patterns to each other. Jean Benoit, Celtic Hammer, and Daniel Payne, Battle Arts, both had a reach and a class advantage over their opponents: Erik Hodgons, Paschtime boxing, and Adrian Calestani-Winacott, Celtic Hammer respectively. Payne looks good, fast and with some crunching blows that lead to three standing eight counts in the 2nd round, the last of which ends the fight. Benoit also looks tidy, ripping out rapid strikes that repeatedly have the crowd groaning. Hodgons, in his first fight, does well to last it, having some success when he gets in close, but ultimately is unable to pin down his opponent. He takes an eight count, and a call from his corner to “walk in with something, not just your head”, while Benoit takes the unanimous decision.

A good match has ebb and flow, attack morphing to defence, big leads cut down by resolute resistance. The first fight of the night followed the latter path, getting the crowd going, suggesting the pre-night promise would be met. Kyle Allen, TNT, gave us a scare against Mathankan Ivanjan, Gideons. For the first two rounds crashing over-hand rights weren’t quite enough against the slicker Ivanjan’s rapid combos. Still Allen came on, his connections drawing roars from the crowd, Ivanjan’s corner bawling at their man: “Don’t stand in front of him!” (“Stand in front of him!” is the reply from a wag in the crowd). For my money Ivanjan is up heading into the final round, but Allen digs deep in the third with a heroic effort, chasing him around the ring, giving everything. Was it enough? We wait on tenterhooks. Yes, by split decision. Thrilling.

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Bynol takes the win against Bongelli; picture from twitter.com/Deborah_Currie

Unfortunately, two TNT fighters can’t quite pull off such comebacks. Craig Bongelli probably needed one more round to complete a turnaround, but as it was his giant (225lb/102kg) opponent, Randy Bynol, Battle Arts, took their super heavyweight contest after some heavy blows in the 2nd led to a standing eight count, and ultimately the win. There was a case for Greg Holley, TNT, having done enough at the last against the tall, cocky O’Neil King, Dewith’s. In a classic clash of styles King evidently did just enough off the back foot to take a split decision. Desperately unlucky for Holley, but definitely an improvement over his last fight.

Contrast the raucous crowd for these duels with the pin-drop silence for our international events. Sheer anticipation gagged the crowd for two fights featuring TNT’s past and prospective Olympians. In the latter category, Sara Haghighat-Joo is a big draw, the gym’s golden girl, having won a recent international event in Sweden, and generally considered a medal chance that the next Olympics. She faced Ali Rosen, representing Caged Dragon, who flew up from Miami. Rosen is taller and heavier than Haghighat-Joo, and perhaps this worries the crowd, who are deathly quiet. They needn’t have been, Haghighat-Joo is clearly faster, and stays on top throughout a cagey encounter to take the unanimous decision. Her career marches resolutely on. Mandy Bujold, Team Canada, also looks faster than Jade Ashmore, Team England, in the eye-catching trans-Atlantic bust-up. At one point Bujold darts in an in a flash delivers a three punch combo the English woman can’t even get her gloves up to. The crowd, whispering at the start, get louder as the result becomes more clear: Bujold on all cards.

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Bujold takes on Ashmore; picture from twitter.com/Deborah_Currie

This was not lacking from the remaining two fights. What adds a bit of spice to any encounter is a touch of history, and that came in the fight between home favourite Carolyn Redmond and Max Turcotte-Novosedlik, Celtic Hammer. They had previously met in the provincial finals, with Redmond beaten to gold by Turcotte-Novosedlik. A bit of a grudge match then. Huge roar from the crowd for this one. Its a hell of a fight too; two very good, very well-matched, very committed boxers putting it all on the line. Perhaps it’s the desire for vengeance, perhaps it’s the roar of a home crowd; Redmond takes the fight to her opponent, demanding that gold back. She never lets up. Turcotte-Novosedlik was the champion. Past tense. Redmond takes the unanimous victory, crowd going wild, 10/10 on the volume.

Somehow though, it went up again for the final fight. Before the night, and aside from the international element, this was main thing people had been talking about. Brock Stumpf, TNT, and reigning Canadian heavyweight champion, against Daniel Akota, Dewith’s. We had been promised entertainment the value of the entire admission alone from this one by half a dozen people. Appetites whetted by the previous nine courses, we still hungered for a 10th. They didn’t disappoint; I’m not sure its in them to fight cute. Even all the little extras were there to make it particularly enthralling; chest bumps after the bell, sparks of outrage when it is his punches, but not yours, that are slightly out of order, corners adding their words of the maelstrom of action. Alongside this side-show the fighters are doing their best to drop bombs on each other, that one huge punch to fell a man and make the crowd howl. Stumpf gets his gum shield punched out, but to the tune of 200+ people chanting “Brock, Brock, Brock” he launches himself forward in a flurry of punches. We double up with nerves when we hear it’s a split decision, but Stumpf takes it. The crowd roar with delight for a final time. We grin at each other, and eventually start clearing out. A fitting end to a dynamite night.

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Competition coach Stevie Bailey, and boxers Carolyn Redmond, Sara Haghighat-Joo, Mandy Bujold and Brock Stumpf after their wins. Picture from twitter.com/MandyBujold

An odd shaped mirror

It seems obvious that a country’s culture is reflected in its art. The two are essentially inseparable. Art depicts what matters most to the culture, and changes with the flow of this collective stream of ideas. You assume that if a culture is particularly obsessed with heroism, the natural world, or family, then the art produced will mirror these feelings. Art also has the power to inform culture, guiding budding trends and movements, but it still must innately appeal to people to do this, and therefore must be built on some existing foundations.

I’ve argued quit a lot in this blog (here, here and here) that sport, like art, is a fundamental spoke of any culture. Although it may lack intellectual glamour, for me sport is as important to helping us understand the cultures of the world. What children get up to, what people do in their spare time, what they talk about with friends; know this and in some small way more know the people. So, if sport is fundamental to a culture, does it reflect it? Are sports where individualism rises to the top more popular in countries who favour the deeds of the individual? The charismatic megafauna I thought I found in Hungary suggested so, but by the end of the day I wasn’t so sure. The Indian Premier League, the crash-bang-wallop kaleidoscope of cricket that is insanely popular in India is colourful, loud and energetic. This is much like the India I and many others have experienced. Does the IPL also possess the same inequality? There are certainly haves and have-nots.

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Now I’m living in Canada, I keep an interested eye on the sports like hockey and baseball, to see if they will tell me anything extra about the country that has taken me in. There is only so much you can learn from watching on TV however, so I had to attend some games in the flesh. I’ve always loved going to sporting events, there is always something visceral, another sense stimulated, when the men and women are pounding up and down, or into each other, right in front of you. Another layer to the live experience is being in a crowd. You, and tens, hundreds or even thousands of people are all tied together by string from your eyes and heart through the ball or fists or feet of the players before you.

So, the live, Canadian experience, come at me. I’ve not been to any ball games, but a couple of hockey games. Ice hockey of course, as if I need to say. The Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL, and the Guelph Storm in the OHL. So friggin’ Canadian, eh, I imagine. Cold and rugged. But enough of the landscape for want of people, does this frenetic game, and the live experience, tell me anything. Well, Canadians are meant to be very tolerant and accommodating, and they’d have to bear all the breaks and distractions served up for us. It was bad at the lower-level Storm game, with cars on the ice and lights and pounding dance music for any or no reason, but it was excruciating at the Leafs game. Watching players standing around idly while some TV advert blared on somewhere, I got the perverse feeling we were not there to watch the players but that they were there to provide entertainment alongside the dancers and explosions and hot-dog adverts. Its altogether quite a passive experience, some applause for every goal but not a great deal more noise than that, the biggest cheer of the Storm game when they score a 5th, rewarding everyone with some free buffalo wings. I enjoyed the matches as a general rule, despite my difficulty following the tiny black puck up and down the ice. The Leafs game especially had a wonderful, tragic air about it, the home team succumbing to a home defeat from a short-handed goal despite young tyro Matthews raging against the mediocrity around him.

Contrast this with the meaty roar that greats Peter Betham’s knock on, sealing Wasps win against Leicester tigers. Or the unfiltered disappointment when Queen’s Park Ranger’s second short on target sinks Wolverhampton Wanderers [what a combination of team names!]. Or the unbounded joy when Cambridge United’s Luke Berry, from down on his backside, knocks anoter nail into the Notts County’s coffin down at the Abbey* on Newmarket road. These provided natural and timely contrast to the two Canadian hockey games. They felt poles apart. One polished and gleaming like the ice, the others a little grubby, but essentially savoury experiences. Nowhere was the contrast more stark than at Cambridge United, where in a tin-roofed terrace behind the goal in the 4th tier of English football the songs and spirit were legion, and the energy marched down the concrete into the legs of the never-will-bes in the pitch. Its an experience that sets me grinning from ear to lobe just thinking on it again.

Does this then inform me of the difference between English and Canadian culture? The English passionate and filled with fervour? Ha, ask around, I think you’ll find we’re famously reserved. Canadians superficial and passive? In a country where people hunt for meat and fur, where everyone has snow tires and tales of digging out of snow drifts? I think not. If you think the English accent is sophisticated, come shout “wanker, wanker, wanker” with us at the way goalie, it might change your perceptions. Certainly settles which of the two countries is more polite.

In fact, out in the icy oval there was a frivolousness and a gaudiness that I don’t think you see in other aspects of life here. Maybe its that US of American influence, perverting the natural order of things**. Maybe what this reflects is the diversity of ideas that are allowed to coexist here, even if they grate or grind somewhat. So it is allowed to be like this, rather than an overt expression of a people. Because if these experiences are meant to mirror what a country is like, it fails to reflect half the things I’m fond of. A mirror that’s got bent all out of shape.

 

 

 

 

*it may have another name now, but it will always be the Abbey

**of course it is also possible that I am attributing the things I like to Canadian and as Canadian values, and the things I dislike as American, and so casting America the role of pantomime villain is has often assumed recently. There are certainly Canadians who are jerks, and plenty of lovely, cultured Americans who too dislike the things I’ve mentioned here.

Fight night

 

They promised to train like beasts and fight like monsters. We came to see if they were true to their word. In a simple square ring, in an old garage, at the back of an unheralded industrial unit, down a small road in the city of Guelph. The smell of deep heat and old sweat hangs in the air, like every pre-match changing room I’ve ever known. Some flicked though the last few combinations with their trainers, others chatted with well-wishers, others buried themselves in a hood and their own apprehension. I felt nervous for them, paired up and walking out in a Saturday night for the TNT boxing academy 10th anniversary. The cake would come later. The cake was a joke to the fighters, who had been fasting and sweating to drop that last pound to make the weight. Lean, wiry and chiselled, some tall, some short, male, female, junior, older, but all filed down to the necessary sinew, muscle and heart for the task at hand.

We grabbed a beer, a seat, and exchange greetings with old friends or made new ones. Joel Yip Chuck said some words of thanks to those deserving. The bell rang, and the first bout commenced. Two juniors. Probably less than 10 fights between them. Proud parents urged them on. Proud parents take every blow with their sons. Romano Watt, TNT, Guelph, took a few stiff punches to the head from the stockier Keeyan Trotman, Boomerz, London. Watt took his standing 8 count impatiently and tried to get his rhythm back. “Forget his head”, “Work the body” offer the crowd. Trotman by unanimous decision.

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Red and blue leave the ring, red and blue enter. Old opponents, new champions each time. This time red claimed Hunter Lee, Windsor amateur boxing; blue took Satwinder Thind, KingOfTheRing, Brampton. He was tall. Thind towered over Lee, a wonder they were the same weight; does Thind have a bird’s hollow bones? It is Lee who does the early flying, crunching Thind with some meaty blows. Thind’s coach is too letting fly, a constant stream of advice, instruction and critique. “Let your hands go, let your hands go.” He does in the 2nd, “Oh yeahs!” rising from the crowd as his long brown limbs flash out. Lee gets back on top in the 3rd, only for a white towel to flutter out from the blue corner, and the fight ends in puzzlement. The crowd ripples with energy, the climax taken from us like the snap of a guitar string. A Muhammed Ali poster watches on. How many millions of fights have 1000s of Ali posters in 1000s of boxing gyms around the world watched?

TTNT2.pnghe crowd regain their energy for the next fight. Home fighter Mary Anne Zamora-Grepe, red corner, to go with her hair, 37 and her first fight, commands a vocal following. Visibly moved by the volume of support, it is not surprising she doesn’t start fluidly. Samantha Rhodes, BigTyme, Orangeville, forces her back with furious blue gloves. Not many are clean strikes though, and Zamora-Grepe goes well off the back foot. The fast start was hard on Rhodes, longer on her chair between the rounds. Rhodes lands a few solid shots that worry the crowd, but despite a slip to the canvas Zamora-Grepe does enough to take a unanimous decision. The crowd raise their voices with another volley of “Lets go Mary Anne” and nerves are washed away like sand by the wave of genuine happiness for the home fighter. She looks thrilled.

Lucca Coppala, Rough boxing, Windsor, defeats a hunched Clay Whiting, Jamestown boxing club, Oshawa, in a fairly one-sided bout, Coppola’s pounding body shots causing a pale Whiting to grimace his way back to his chair. The 2nd standing 8 count in the 2nd round brings a welcome end. You wonder which you would be if you wore the red or blue and did this. Graceful victor or battered loser. Gently squeeze your hand into a fist and imagine letting your hands go. Do they find the target or only air? The boxers who have been know the answer.

Greg Holly, TNT, apparently lost 5lb in a day to make the weigh for his bout with Jesse Maillet, Motor City, Oshawa. The hours in the sauna in a sauna suit, the effort of sweating out all that water. Its therefore a bit of a shame that he loses by decision to his tattooed opponent. He made a hell of a fight of it mind, coming on hard in the 3rd, a baying crowd urging him on, advancing relentlessly, landing some good shots and occasionally walking into one from the retreating Maillet. In the end it was not quite enough, a standing 8 count in the 2nd probably sealing the deal, although that clearly hurt Holly’s pride more than his flesh. Its all smiles later, playing keepie-uppie with some of the kids, but steel enters his voice when he talks about why he does this. “You play soccer, you play hockey, you don’t play boxing”. Can’t say I doubt that, its like so many other sports events I’ve been to; the nerves, the opponents, the support, but its different as well. A bit rawer, a little bit more fear living in the eyes alongside the bravado.

The penultimate fight is perhaps a victim of this, a scrappy, cagey affair between Philip Conlin, TNT, and Dylon Shankland, Clubb Canada, Scarborough. Its punctuated by shouts of “Fuck him up Phil”, which is easier to say than do, and “He’s off the couch” which is easier to say than understand. Eventually Shankland gets on top in the 3rd, Conlin never really gets going. Shankland by unanimous decision.

The main event arrives to put a cap on proceedings. In blue, a few months post-childbirth, is Sukhpreet Singh, another from KingOfTheRing. Facing her is home favourite Sara Haghighat-Joo, TNT, queen-elect of the ring. Gold at the recent provincial finals, ranked #2 in Canada, its clear to see why this fight received top billing. Its clear too she’s a class apart. Lithe, focused and viper quick. Where others try and land combinations she’s already hit home, working head and body, slicing in and out. Canny as well, catching Singh whenever her hands drop. Haghighat-Joo is all smiles on her chair, unlike her opponent, which tells enough of a story. Singh survives a brace of standing 8 counts but not the judges. Haghighat-Joo by unanimous decision. Never in doubt.

It’s a good end to the night. As the fighters unwind their hand-wraps, we grab a last beer and bask in the reflected glow of their honest endeavour. Puzzlement still reigns over the fluttering towel in the 2nd fight. Rival gyms mingle. The ringside doctor packs up; no one sad they were not required. It was a packed house and a good show; the next instalment of the Dynamite fights will not doubt be equalled well greeted. By then the limbs that are aching will be refuelled with nervous energy, the scent of deep heat will be back in the air and another set of boxers will be wondering if they will sting or be stung. But for now, as we slip out into the night, visiting teams head for the highway, and the last of the sweat dries on the blue canvas, those questions are answered. Promises kept.

A Nobel prize and the unknown benefits that come from saying yes

A Nobel prize and the unknown benefits that come from saying yes

ESC-SEC Blog

Aziz Sancar delivering his Nobel Lecture for his prize in Chemistry 2015. He said yes.

My early morning wakeup on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 began as usual with a, though admittedly not healthy, quick Twitter check. My internet-induced squint widened when I saw that Aziz Sancar was trending. Dr. Sancar had just been named co-winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry for his work on DNA repair mechanisms. Not at all surprised by the recognition of his career achievements, I was, however, flabbergasted because I actually know Aziz Sancar and in no small way, my career is what it is because of his generosity and kindness.

Twenty years ago, I was an MSc candidate studying the physiological ecology of amphibians at Trent University. At the time I was working with Michael Berrill on replicating and testing the findings of a 1994 PNAS paper by Andrew Blaustein and company. This was…

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Coyote and Squirrel Camp

 

Time was, before social media, global warming or Donald Trump, that there were a lot more dangerous animals around squirrel camp.  10-foot beavers would chomp off campers’s heads, giant mosquitos would drink their blood with a single slurp, great ostrich-sized predatory grouse would ambush campers with a loud thud and peck out their large intestines, and terrifying whuzmucks would prowl the highways at night, waylaying trucks and dragging the drivers into the ditch. Bears were the least of ones’ worries. This was altogether too much for the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short), as students were expensive and their parents were beginning to ask questions, so they decided to do something. They resolved to send up one of their students to deal with these problem animals. This student was known as Coyote.

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Coyote was smart as a fox, swift as a hare, as playful as a bear cub and as loving of practical jokes as a frat boy. Coyote loved the forest and all its wonders, and they loved Coyote back, even if the animals were sometimes the victim of one of Coyote’s practical jokes. Coyote once stuck some fallen gray jay feathers into the rump of a chickadee, giving the small bird a hilariously long tail. Oh how Coyote laughed as the chickajay tried to fly, and how Coyote roared when it becme stuck amongst the twigs of its nest. Puzzlingly the female birds seemed to like the stupidly long tail, but Coyote decided enough was enough and removed the handicap from the poor bird. Coyote even created a study grid all to itself, choosing the best location with the finest view of the whole valley. From here Coyote would frolic and plan the next set of practical jokes. Around the grid Coyote scampered playing tricks on the squirrels by swapping babies between nests and crying with silent laughter as mother squirrels raised young from another mother squirrel entirely!

Eventually however, the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) rang Coyote to remind it its duties, and so Coyote set to work. Alongside its other qualities Coyote possessed magic in a small amount. The typically proved useful when playing jokes on the animals or convincing people to fund more research. This time however Coyote used its magic to make the forest safer. Coyote first cast a great spell to make the fearsome whuzmucks disappear. It worked, but a little too well, wiping out every whuzmuck around the world and even removing all mentions of them from textbooks or scientific articles. Hence to this day, you can find no whuzmucks anywhere, nor read about them any place. This great spell drained Coyote’s magic, meaning spells to get rid of the other animals were less potent. Rather than wait to be magicked away, beaver, mosquito and grouse tried to trap Coyote and stop the spells. Because of this, Coyote had to be very wary when moving around the forest, avoiding anything that looked or smelt like a trap, a trait Coyote’s descendants still possess to this day. While sniffing out and avoiding traps, Coyote cast spells to shrink each of beaver, mosquito and grouse. This made them far less dangerous to anyone in the woods. Mosquito was still incredibly annoying however, so Coyote shrank it further, and made mosquito susceptible to the cold, ensuring it would only be in the forest for the few short summer months. This second spell diminished Coyote’s magic even further, leaving enough for only one final piece of magic. For this final spell Coyote made beaver and grouse vegetarian, so that they would not take even teeny-tiny bites out of the campers. And so the forest was made safe.

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artist’s impression

With all of Coyote’s magic gone, it decided to stay up in the woods it loved so much, and start a family. Coyote’s descendants live there still, and on cold clear mornings you can hear them talking and yammering in high tones as they try and remember the words to re-cast some of Coyote’s original spells. Beaver, mosquito and grouse are now amiable members of the forest, although Mosquito still nips a bit of blood now and again from campers, for old times sake. And whenever grouse has been reminiscing most strongly, it sneaks into the long grass, wait for a camper to walk past, and then springs an ambush, flying between their legs with a great thud and terrifying the poor soul, leaving the grouse to chuckle and smile and remember when they were great predatory beasts long ago, before social media, climate change, Donald Trump, and the one called Coyote.

How Squirrel Camp got its bear fence

Squirrel camp, like many wilderness camps, has an electrical fence surrounding it. Normally they are called bear fences, but they can in fact keep many kinds of animals out. There was a time in fact, where there was no fence at all. The bears knew all the food in camp was safely locked away in coolers or tupawares or tins or other containers that require opposable thumbs to open. Therefore, they did not bother camp, and the campers were happy. Occasionally the camper would spot a bear opposite a grid, browsing for berries or inspecting a dead porcupine, and they would wave to the bear, and it would wave back, and everyone would continue with their days. However, an unfortunate series of events would cause this homo-ursine utopia to unravel.

People of all shapes and sizes come to work at squirrel camp, and some of these people are of particularly dashing shape.  Ones of these dashing types was walking along the highway after a morning of squirrelling, when a family from a nearby town pulled up. They enquired as to whether she was lost, and upon learning that she was not, enquired about her motivation for being in the Yukon. She explained what Squirrel Camp was and their research goals in a manner interesting and accurate but not complex or condescending, bid them good day, and strolled back for her lunch. Now it may have been her charming manner, it may have been her good leg tone and core stability after days of trapping in the field, or it may have been the way the autumnal sun caught her auburn locks in a frankly heavenly manner, but the eldest son in the family was captivated. While she talked he stared, while she gestured he drooled, and when she walked off she had already stepped into his dreams. They went back to their home town and all he could picture was her face, her hair, her luminous trapping vest! She had said they were others, and before long he had convinced himself there was a whole group of dashing young ecologists holed up in the woods. If only he could get back to her or find one like her he would be truly happy. But devoid of a car, much charm or practically any redeeming features, it seemed hopeless. 

However, one of his few qualities was cunning, and after a few nights spent sleepless in his box room under the staircase, he hatched a plot. Our desperate teen, “Chet”, assembled his cronies, “Chad” and “Chez”. He carefully slipped the keys to his father’s new truck into his pocket and stole into the night. Chet, Chad and Chez gathered in the dark of the garage. The others were scared and timid, but Chet bribed them with promises of a harem of dashing women, and threatened them with jabs of his hockey stick, and eventually they got into the truck. None of them knew how to drive, but fortunately this was an automatic, so after some squabbling, bickering and tedious name calling, Chad wrenched the truck into drive and off they went. Fortunately it was dark, so no police officers noticed them rolling past stop signs, and none of the teens had watched Nascar, meaning turning both left and right was not alien to them. Once out of the town they became giddy with excitement. Chad revved the engine, Chet pounded the horn, and Chez turned their obnoxious nu-country up to the maximum. This cacophony of noise and raging hormones careered up the road through the woods. This disruption greatly disturbed the bears foraging on the roadside berry bushes, upsetting them greatly. To discover the source of this irritant they followed the truck up the road. Of course this then meant that when Chet, Chad and Chez arrived at Squirrel camp, a posse of bears was not too far away.

Chet, Chad and Chez tumbled out the truck and began hooting and hollering. Chet yowled and cried for his love, while Chad and Chez yelped and wailed for anything at all. Alarmed by this noise, the campers tumbled out of the cookshack to see what was amiss. Unfortunately, at this moment the posse of bears arrived at camp. It was chaos. Chet, Chad and Chez scattered. Bears growled and prowled around the camp after them, and the campers tried simultaneously to find and eject Chet, Chad and Chez, while dodging around pissed-off bears. There were many near-misses, close scrapes and on more than one occasion a bear’s maw was only a hair’s breadth away. Finally though, Chet, Chad and Chez were corralled by the bears and the campers into their truck and sent packing. The bears dusted themselves off, took a couple of swigs of some cider they had unearthed in the chaos, and returned to the forest. Camp was a bit of a mess, and everyone was a bit shaken, but ultimately all was ok. The campers then agreed that such a thing could never happen again. Therefore, to preserve the chastity of camp from further bands of horny teenagers, the campers erected a crotch-high electric fence around camp to keep out those directed by their genitals. The bears however misunderstood this gesture, thinking it was directed at them after the cider pilfering. This mistrust grew between the bears and the campers, which was a sad outcome from such an unfortunate night.

So that is Squirrel camp got its “bear” fence. Over time Chad and Chez were forgotten, and the original purpose of the fence lost, so its ability to keep bears out was recognised as its function.  The bears largely stayed away from camp,  but occasionally they would sneak back into camp, looking for a sip of delicious  cider.  As for Chet, he became a psychology major, and spent his days diagnosing his infrequent dreams of a loud truck, angry bears, and shining auburn hair by the side of an open highway.