A visit to Camp 13

The Compass - - OPINION -

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 gh­wal­ters@per­sona.ca or gh­wal­ters663@gmail.com

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