‘How About You? A Lifetime of Tempting Fate’
“During our lifetime,” author John Kitchen observes, “almost all of us experience some unusual and fearful events.”
For example, perhaps we have been involved in an automobile accident, lived through a fire, fallen from a cliff, met up with a wild animal, had a close call involving water, or suffered a sport injury.
Personally, I once had a close call involving water. I recently wrote in this space about the time my eight-yearold son and I toppled into Gilbert’s River in Labrador. That event was both fearful and unusual.
Kitchen himself has had what he calls “adventures of what might be considered as ‘near tragedies’ or ‘close shaves.’ ”
He writes about many of those in his most recent book, “How About You? A Lifetime of Tempting Fate.”
A seasoned author, the Millertown native has already written several books, including “All Afire!: Ore Miners of Newfoundland and Labrador” and two books about the Beothuk. In “The Beothuk Way,” he tells how they lived in Newfoundland before the arrival of Europeans. In “The Newfoundland Beothuk,” he writes passionately about what he refers to as the “termination of a tribe.”
In another book, “By the Sweat of my Brow,” he describes the life of a Newfoundland logger, cutting trees, transporting them to the waterways, driving them to the mill, cooking meals, building dams, teaming horses and operating woods machinery.
“Theirs was a hard life,” he says, “having to work in all kinds of weather, existing in often primitive conditions, tolerating the cold, the heat, the mosquitoes and the lice, eating rough foods, with no leisure time, and no hot water to keep themselves clean. Just work, eat and sleep.”
Now, in “How About You,” he recalls 30 or so incidents of ordinary and, in some cases, extraordinary, personal events.
“It’s surprising,” the octogenarian says, “how certain things that happened over time remain vividly in one’s mind for ever, especially those that were fraught with danger.”
The chapter titles give a foretaste of what the reader can expect:
• Falling into a pack of semi-wild dogs • Shooting at a metal object • Falling from a moving tractor sled • Hypothermia, Lost in the wilder- ness • Exploding gas stove and fridge In one of his stories, Kitchen recalls the day he and a friend and his family met a bear while blueberry picking.
“As we approached the area,” he writes, “we came face-to-face with a black bear which rose up on its hind legs to see what was disturbing its feast.”
Even a hungry bear will avoid humans but, Kitchen continues, “if the meeting takes place in the springtime when the mother bear has cubs with her, then the situation would be difficult and dangerous.”
To their great relief, the bear, seeing so many people, “quickly dropped down on all fours and quickly scurried away.”
Kitchen is now on a mission to publish yet another book.
“If you also have experienced such happenings, I would appreciate it if you would pass them along to me,” he tells readers, “as I hope to put together another similar book, but this time I would write about other people’s events.... It should be a very interesting book.”
Kitchen can be reached by email at email@example.com or by snail-mail at 23 Kilmory Place, St. John’s, NL A1A 5V8. His phone number is (709) 722-3287.
“It’s only upon looking back that we can laugh and be amazed at how we could have lived through such adventures and without overly seri- ous injuries. It’s as if there was a guardian angel involved. It’s said that a cat has nine lives. Perhaps human beings also have many lives. I certainly did.”
A series of inimitable and comical drawings, interspersed throughout the chapters, “add to the readers’ amazement,” Kitchen suggests, “even though at the time of occurrence some of those events were anything but amusing.”
His other book is “Come walk with me,” a descriptive and informative account of his backpacking experiences, complemented by nearly 300 full-colour photographs.
Among his adventures is a crossisland trek in 1982, hiking in England in 1984, and a St. John’s to Harbour Grace jaunt via the now-defunct railway tracks in 1985.
Jules Verne evidently said, “To go afoot is ideal traveling. Going afoot allows a man to see all that there is to see. Who goes afoot is satisfied with by-paths when the highroad is no more. He may proceed as the humour takes him ... and scale the mountain tops.”
John Kitchen has had his fair share of foot travel, some of which has no doubt been humdrum, while more has been hair-raising.