A visit to Camp 13
Fewer than 10 pages into Camp 13 [Flanker Press] I smelled something distinctive.
No b’ys, it wasn’t the intoxicating odour of the freshly cracked pages of a brand new book, although I did stick my nose directly into the book’s open spine to make sure. Nor was it the yeasty aroma of freshly baked buns that Hedley Janes, Camp 13’s cook, had recently pulled from the cookhouse oven.
A tiny bit puzzled by my failure to identify the scent, I lodged the book aside and allowed my noggin to sniff up a double snort of memories.
Suddenly — well not altogether suddenly, because it took me a couple of minutes to pinpoint the tantalizing fragrance — the exact bouquet solidified in my mind’s nose like a punch in that same appendage. I knew what I smelled. Horse whoopsie. I inhaled deeply with wide open nostrils. Expanding lungs swelled up my chest.
The heady whiff of horse whoopsie spun me backwards in a Time Twister, hurled me in a spiraling tornado back to a stable on Random Island where I wielded a square-nosed shovel heaving aromatic scoops of straw and horse whoopsie through an open hatch to a mountainous manure pile outside.
This morning, when my age is approaching the longevity of Mr. Buckley’s Billy goat, I wish I could be back in that stable, dodging Old Beaut’s heels and slinging shovelfuls of whoopsie out through the hatch. Truly. Camp 13’s horses triggered those fragrant memories, partly, I suppose, because I’ve known horses just like them, because I’ve shoveled whoopsie behind horses just like them.
Jim was one of Stan White’s “bad” horses. Despite his ability to easily haul fully loaded racks of pulpwood, he was unpredictably wild and dangerous. Only a couple of the teamsters working for Stan at Camp 13 were able to handle Jim when he decided to be wicked.
Once when Jim had mauled Stan’s younger brother Don, Uncle Walt Cooper “drew back and sent his huge mallet of a fist into the side of Jim’s head.” Jim behaved. The winter we lived in the woods my Uncle Eric owned a young entire named Charlie who often acted like Camp 13’s Jim. One day after Uncle had stacked a load of junks on his sleds he stooped in front of Charlie to pick up the reins he’d dropped. Charlie chose to bite Uncle on the shoulder.
Like Walt Cooper, Uncle instantly hauled off and punched Charlie a smack in the nose that drove his nostrils so far back that his top lip curled. Charlie behaved. That winter, in a makeshift stable on Whitaker’s Point, I shoveled whoopsie for Charlie.
Sorry, the smell of horse whoopsie has distracted me, has addled my pate.
Byron White’s book, Camp 13, is a story about the lumber woods — most specifically, about the haul-out during the winter of 1953. Stan White has contracted with Bowater Pulp and Paper to deliver 7,000 cords of wood before spring thaw. Camp 13 follows Stan and his teamsters as they scoat their guts out to fulfil the contract with B.P.P … or not fulfil the contract because a humongous plug of pulpwood stogged bar-tight in the Southwest Gander River fails to loosen and free the logs to float downstream.
Unless you already know, you’ll have to read to learn the outcome because … because I won’t tell … because I want to speak of swearing, of smokin’, sulphurous cussin’.
You may find it difficult to believe that when both I and Mr. Buckley’s goat were mere sprigs the ubiquitous “fudgestick” word was not an accept- able part of speech. Sure, if some foulmouthed yahoo uttered said unsavory word in the presence of your girlfriend, it was a cavalier’s duty — yes, bounden duty — like Walt Cooper and Jim; like Uncle Eric and Charlie — to attempt to smack the lips off the uncouth fousty-mouth. Truly, eh old b’ys? Such profanity, according to Byron White, was evidence of “a feeble mind trying to express itself forcefully.”
Stan White, boss of Camp 13, would not stand for vulgarity, not even from the tongues of hard-working, log-hauling lumbermen. No sir. Nevertheless, Stan instinctively understood the need for expletives, even though he — perhaps — didn’t acknowledge the widely recognized stress-reducing value of bellowed oaths. Stan frequently swore himself. Characteristically, and not necessarily only when vexed to the point of distraction, Stan was known to singe Camp 13’s winter air with his most vile invective — “Jingoes!” Jingoes! Hardly a scorcher, eh b’ys? Fudgestick. Thank you for reading. Visit Camp 13.
Harold Walters is an avid reader living in Dunville, Placentia Bay. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com