Saturday, October 20, 2018


Sometime between the ages of eighty three and eighty four you get an epiphany that strikes you like a hammer blow. Suddenly your eyes are opened wide and you realize that all your struggles to do the right thing and to make the world a place better than when you first entered it are totally in vain and basically immaterial. It’s all been an illusion.
It’s been an illusion since time immemorial. Look at the biblical reference to Cain and Abel where Cain murdered Abel. Nothing much has changed since then. Occasionally the Abels of the world get a little high falutin’ and give the Cains of the word a thing or two to think about, but it doesn’t happen often enough. Well and then there’s the politicians of course. Take Marc Garneau for example. He’s going to study the information on seat belts in school buses before he makes a decision on whether or not to outfit them with seat belts. I would challenge him to sit in a school bus while getting T-boned by an eighteen wheeler at full speed. It’s a shame that all that education and world experience has affected his judgment.
And another thing to think about is that big long drink of water we call our Manitoba Premier, instead of diddling with his little pet projects he ought to be opening up the port of Churchill to overseas traffic, saving thousands of dollars in shipping to Europe and Asia and giving the United States the opportunity to stick the Panama Canal to where the sun don’t shine. But he likely won’t do that either and the U. S. will come along and scoop the whole business up, leaving us blowing in the wind.
Well, you can see why I’ve come to the conclusion that #IDON’TCARE. I can’t do anything about it anyway so why bother? I’m just too old for that malarkey!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Another excerpt from the Square Bear

The animal began to separate into two with a ghastly crackling and groaning. The sounds were so abrasive to Epp’s ears he had to look away. Dealing with the animal’s pain and agony was overwhelming and his heart was bursting with sympathy for it. The cold air streaming upwards had stopped and the two animals turned on Epp as if to attack him. They stopped at his feet, suddenly realizing that he wasn’t the one who had hurt them but rather the one who had freed them from the cold. With that they staggered outside in to the snow.
The hut was now completely empty and the flue had cleared. Outside, still dark and stormy, the two broken bears stumbled toward the long house. Epp had the presence of mind to go down to the cellar to bring them some fish – something they hadn’t eaten for a long time. They attacked the food ravenously and then continued on to the long house. It was just near the entrance where the two bears fell down dead.
Epp noticed it getting a little lighter out and peered up at the chimneys. There was considerably less cold air rising from them. Bears- single bears were milling around everywhere, from one to the other, sniffing and smelling each just like they do when meeting for the first time in the wilderness. It was an amazing scene, as though they were greeting one another after a long absence. And the cold air rising had all but stopped. Epp went back outside to see the snow had slowed to a light fall and it was getting lighter out too. Through the mist of the snowfall Epp could make out the sun behind it. Everything was returning to its present day existence as though a freak anomaly had just passed through and vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
The individual bears began exiting the long house, stopping at the two dead animals lying at the doorway. They lingered there momentarily before passing into the darkness. The cold air now gone from the long house literally stopped the snow from falling though the wind still blew from the sea. It seemed to be blowing the snow away and the darkness was lifting. Epp could now see a bit of the sun and it was getting lighter out. The stormy weather was blowing itself out toward the east.
The Elder bent over the two dead bears and said a prayer, giving thanks for their sacrifice and scattering incense from is pouch. He sang a blessing song for them and strangely they started to diminish their presence, evaporating into thin air until they were gone, completely vanished. It was obvious to Epp that they had been dead for a long time, kept alive only by the spirit of Aakulu who had waited there for his sister Aleka. Now they were gone without a trace. Epp could not believe his own eyes.
This was too much for Epp. His years of archaeological training had prepared him for most things but this was more than he could handle. Firstly, he could make neither head nor tail of it and what’s more, things were happening here that flew in the face of his whole belief system. The other bears had just run off and presumably continued their lives while these just vanished. He had a sudden desire to put all this out of his mind and just do some farming somewhere in the area. Of course that wasn’t possible now in this weather but nevertheless it was a yearning he felt longingly. But wait a moment. He had dug up a lot of earth around the roots of the trees he had removed earlier. The soil was now loose and he knew just where it was. If he spread the seeds on the snow where this spot was, when the snow melted the seeds would sink into the ground, germinate and grow. If it worked, he’d call it winter wheat. What a great idea!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Dog Owners

Dog Owners
I’m angry – more than angry! No, I’m not angry at dogs, just owners. Where do they get the idea to teach such behavior to their dogs to frighten people walking down the lane or the sidewalk into such action as was done to that bull mastiff the other day?
No, I don’t think it is right to do what these young people did to that big beautiful beast that was in the news the other day. I would rather have seen them attack the owner for his ignorant attitude towards the general public. The community at large would have been much better served had they attacked him instead. Mind you weaponry like knives are not acceptable either. But still he deserved no less than a good punch in the nose himself.
At first I thought the dog was that one on Richardson Avenue near McPhillips Street, right behind the tire shop.  I have to park my car there in order to get to the dentist around the corner right on McPhillips. The man there has a nice home with statues of several mastiffs on the front steps. He also has a live adult dog and a young pup in the yard. It is certainly obvious how proud he is of his animals.
His front iron fence butts right up against the public sidewalk, and is of reasonable height. When we go to walk past and the dog begins to bark, jumping up against the fence. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be much of a problem, but the size of this brute jumping up against the fence would make it easy for him/her to jump right over and attack whoever walks by, what with all the noisy barking.
The Missus, she’s afraid of dogs to start with, so as soon as the barking starts, she’s across the boulevard and on the street behind some bushes. Well that would be fine except she’s old too and her balance is none too good. Had I known she was going to do that, I might have followed just to make sure she didn’t fall; a mistake on my part. The thing is, I have no fear of dogs, no matter how big, I kept walking (with one eye on the dog’s big jumps at the fence) with my hand ready to smack him in the snout with the back of my hand in the event he jumped over it. No dog has ever got the best of me (well, maybe one, but that’s it).
Walking back to the car after my dental appointment, the dogs and the owner were nowhere to be seen so we got there quietly enough. But all the while I was thinking that the owner decided that he also owns the sidewalk and the boulevard because nobody can walk there with that blasted barking dog. As far as I know this is property owned by the city, not the home owner.
Well the point of this whole story is that we are taking the wrong perspective on banning certain types of dogs. They are not the problem. The owners are the problem. The SPCA and/or the city should force people buying or breeding big dogs of this nature to become competent in behavioral training of the animal and to give certified evidence of it before being able to have such a dog. Mind you, there are lots of good dog owners. We meet them all the time in the parks.
One day we came across a Great Pyrenees sitting on the trail we walk. His owner was pulling on the leash to get him to move. Nothing doing, he wouldn’t budge. As we walked by he began wagging his tail and we asked if we could pet him. “Yes, please”, answered the owner. He just wants to greet everybody and say hello.”  We left after patting him and he waited for the next people to arrive.
Another time a man was walking his enormous Pit Bull. As we approached the dog laid down, facing us. His tail (or really his bum) was wagging furiously as he lay on the ground. “May we pet him?” I asked. “Oh yes” said the man, “He just wants to be friends.” Then there was the time that a big pit bull decided he wanted to sit on my lap and lick my face.
So there are a lot of good dog owners out there who understand the nature of animals. And I also understand the need for guard dogs in various places to protect property from being damaged and stolen. Usually these are not residences in the cities. They are businesses or farms needing to protect property. No, these people I mentioned here have no regard for their animals at all. The animals are nothing more than a status symbol to show off and to satisfy their own ego; a total disrespect to the animal. These are the very people who need an attitude shift.
My proposal is this: If there is a complaint about such a dog as described here, that dog should be removed from the home into a training facility at the owner’s expense. The owner can then attend the retraining of the dog’s attitude and gain knowledge of what he must do. In other words, it’s training of the dog and the owner. Once this is done the training facility can issue a certificate of competency and the dog returned to its owner. Otherwise it remains at the facility to be sold to an agreeable new owner.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to put some teeth into dog laws and I intend to pursue this to its end.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Righting a Wrong

Righting a Wrong
We ought to be sensitive to world opinion about some of the shortcomings in our own country’s machinations and be able to take a signal from the rest of the world. Being taken to task by the Saudi royal family for our inattention to the problems in Canada, supported by the other Arab nations and a muted silence from the European nations as well as the United Nations should give us the impetus to fix the whole problem once and for all.
Given this world opinion, we could easily be excused from any foreign aid, either financially or in manpower to fix our own problems before resuming our present course. We could then suspend all financial aid to countries other than Canada as well as military personnel and bring it all home while we get our own house in order.
The five billion dollars we spend per year in foreign aid PLUS our military commitments would certainly go a long way to resolving our Indigenous issues, our gas and oil security, our northern security, our violence problems and so on. Five years on in such a program should elevate Canada to a higher level of respect from the critical world we see today and give us some deserved respect.
We have to admit that the Saudis are right in putting our own house in order before criticizing others. I’m sure they would agree for us to become self sufficient in our own oil and gas refineries so they can sell it to someone else (or keep it).
I’m of the opinion that we should take immediate action on this without waiting for long consultations and other red tape to get it started. I say to the Federal Government: just shut up and do it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Another excerpt from the Square Bear

The sun was rising further and further and it was getting warm out. At least Epp could see what he was doing. It took a full three weeks before he was done with this long building, having ten different roof openings and being sturdy enough to withstand the winds and any other disturbances.  Now he could speak to Aleka.
“Now maybe I can find my little brother,” she exclaimed excitedly. “I will bring the bears and they will all come. They have been waiting a long time.”
And the bears came one by one or multiples of one, bowing down to Epp’s greeting. Soon the Longhouse was almost filled with the steaming bears, each emitting a flow of steam straight up through the flue above. They all lay there unmoving, four under each of the roof openings, seemingly relieved at the evaporation of frost from their bodies.
Outside you could see the steam streaming profusely from each of the openings in the roof. They were heavy billows of moisture, soon caught up in the wind and dissipated over the land. Epp casually thought about the four hundred year old steam wafting over present day Greenland. How strange it seemed for moisture from the last Ice Age to be released into contemporary air. It rose straight up until the wind caught it and sent it scattering throughout the east in a dense fog.
Epp was a little concerned at what this might do to the climate here. It was a little late to do anything about it so he let it go out of his mind. One thing was certain. This would take a very long time to complete. Gorilja had, as Epp had seen, tried to take a shortcut with his powerful glue. It hadn’t worked of course, as evidenced by the pile of broken body parts on the floor in the corner. No, it seemed this must take its natural course, however long that might take and there was nothing to do but wait.
Waiting was not something that Epp did well. He was wandering around the area trying to figure out what else he might do that was productive. About the only thing he could manage was to dig up the roots of the trees he had cut down. It would certainly provide an outlet for the tension he felt by sitting there waiting and would keep him occupied. Anything was better than just sitting on his hands. Unfortunately it was all done too soon and he was again without an activity. He would go back to the lab to see if he could find some seeds to plant. That was familiar enough and who knows what Gorilja might have left behind.
On the walk back to the lab Epp observed the wind coming off the ocean. It was a stiff breeze that blew over the huts he had built and straight to the east. The steam coming from the buildings was as strong as ever, blowing up into the wind and being carried away in a rolling cloud. It seemed a little darker, hazier than it had been. That, thought Epp, was due to the clouds of steam generated by the Square Bears. Strangely enough, it was a little cooler too. That probably had something to do with the clouds masking the sun. Epp walked on, paying little attention to the weather. But as he got closer to the lab, he noticed the tremendous amount of steam still emanating from the huts. He’d have to go in and check the bears before anything else.
It was amazing what Gorilja had brought with him in his venture to Greenland. In a corner of the lab Epp found some various seeds of grain, each marked as to its kind. Packages of wheat, barley, oats, were all marked in the German language. This was good. Now he’d have something to do that he was familiar with, provided that the weather would allow.
It was starting to snow. That seemed strange at this time of year. It should be warming, not cooling. The only thing Epp could think of was the cooling effect of the escaping steam from the bears that was still strong as ever. Of course with one or two bears it wouldn’t have made a difference but with nearly a hundred, it was another story. Epp walked over to the first hut he had built. Aleka was still sitting there, calling for her brother. The Square Bear was lying there, emitting a strong amount of steam, probably stronger than before. When Epp went over to touch the bear’s head, the fur was somewhat softer. He felt for the division in the bodies and noticed some softening there too, though not much. He put his hand up into the steam and it was cold, ice cold. This wasn’t steam at all. It was cold air – four hundred year old cold air embodied within the bears and now being expelled. That explained the snow. What in heaven’s name had he started?  By huddling together the bears had trapped the ice-age cold air within their bodies and by some great miracle, held it there. Well, the expulsion of it had begun now and there was no stopping it other than removing them from the huts. But Epp wasn’t willing to do that just yet. He’d wait and see what developed.
Going outside, he didn’t have long to wait. Snow was swirling all around. There was so much cold air emanating from the bears it was causing a change in the climate. As soon as it hit the free air it turned into snow which came down around them. As the wind picked up it was turning into a storm. The weather cooled as the sky darkened as the snow began whipping around, especially toward the east. Looking toward the ocean in the west it was relatively bright but very windy. The whole storm was blowing eastward into the mainland.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Random Excerpt from Sidney Square Bear

This is another random sample from the book for your interest:

A sudden chilling thought came into Epp’s mind. Was this old hag really there? Was she an apparition? She must be real. She was holding the large fish in her hand. But she hadn’t moved since he got there. She just only sat quietly at the corner of the stoop without moving and she wouldn’t go inside the building. And the dogs who were ravenously chewing on their fish never took any notice of her.
“Here, let me help you up. We’ll go inside where it is warm,” said Epp and he reached out to take her hand. She and the fish in her hands vanished into thin air. What the . . . . That the old woman could vanish was one thing, but that the fish too would disappear was quite another. Epp had a few Mennonite exclamations that wouldn’t mean anything in English and sat on the stoop, staring at the place where the apparition had been.
Slowly, out of a mist the old woman reappeared holding the fish in her hands. “You are not real” Epp muttered, unable to think of anything else to say.
“Oh, I’m real alright, only from a different time. There are things that happen here in Greenland with the indigenous people that the Europeans don’t understand. I guess I’m one of them.”
“Then you must be very old”, said Epp, not sure of what he should begin to ask.
“Do you have a name?”
“It is Aleka. Means older sister,” she said matter of factly.
“How long have you been here in this place?”
“I’ve been in this place since after the last ice age affected Greenland.” She replied.
“That must be a long time,” mused Epp.
“Yes, it was a long time ago. I remember the terrible cold. It was so cold it was hard to survive outside. My young brother went outside after me telling him not to. After a while I went out to find him and all I saw was little pieces of his mitts lying in the snow. That’s when I first saw the giant Square Bears. It looked as though they had eaten my young brother.  I called and called, but he would not answer. He must be inside them somewhere.
“Well of course, they had to eat too or they would starve so I had no choice but to forgive them. I asked them to eat me too so I could be together with my brother but they would not. They said I must help them to survive until this cold went away and then they could separate and become ordinary bears again. When that happened my brother would be released. “
“I don’t understand what you mean by the bears separating,” said Epp.
“When the ice age descended on us, the bears, which were ordinary bears at the time, huddled together to keep each other warm. They stayed together so close and so long that they fused into giant Square Bears which are the bears you see today. They could not separate anymore.”
“Why not?” Epp was puzzled.
“It seems they were fused so tightly together their fur intertwined and became brittle. It was impossible to get them apart. As time went on, they grew into one body to be the giant Square Bear seen around here these days with no possibility of seperation.” 
“So these are then more than one ordinary bear?” Epp asked.
“Yes, at least two, sometimes even more. There could be whole families.”
“That must have been awkward for them to be able to eat then. What did you do?”
“In those days I was still young and strong enough to be able to fish for them so that’s what I did. It was awkward for them to eat out of each side of their mouth but at least they managed it. They could not hunt for themselves and thus would have starved unless I had been able to fish for them. This I did gladly in the hope of seeing my little brother again.”
“Then how did you end up here?” Epp asked curiously.
“There was a man who came up here a long time ago. He said he had studied apothecary medicine at the university in Prague. I don’t know where that is, but that’s what he said. He has a picture of himself on the wall inside with some sort of writing on it. You’ll see when you go in.”
Epp pondered, “You say he built this place?”
“Yes he did. It’s a very strange building. Something like white men would build. Not very warm I think, but it keeps the flies away in summer.”

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sidney Square Bear's Supreme Sacrifice to Save the Greenland Polar Bear

Lately I've been held captive by what I thought would be a short children's book with pictures and all, only to find the story had a life of its own. So instead of preparing a blog, I thought I'd give you an idea of what it's about (excluding editing)> So here goes:

Being a history buff involves a great deal of research and verification of just about everything. It’s a lot more complicated than it seems at the outset. Had I known where this journey would take me, I might not have embarked on it.
I had no idea that my ancestor whose namesake I am was any sort of somebody, but a certain set of circumstances involving Bismark and military service set the whole business in motion.  Epp had after all, studied for years at the university to become an archeologist, and had no interest in picking up a gun and pursuing a military career. That wasn’t his way or the way of his people and he’d have nothing to do with it. Most of his people, beckoned by Katherine the Great went to Russia to drain those swamps as Epp had done in his young life in the Danzig area and he had no stomach for that either. So he pulled up stakes and left the Danziger swamps, going directly to Greenland where he thought it would be warm and inviting.
BLOODY HELL! It was colder there than any place he’d ever been. Well certainly Bismark wouldn’t go looking for him there! Somebody with a strange sense of humor had named this place, obviously to draw people there instead of . . . Iceland. Aha! That was it! Some Icelander had fabricated the name to draw people there instead of Iceland. Epp couldn’t see the advantage of that but then them Icelanders were a strange and adventurous lot anyway.
Having landed in Greenland ill equipped, Epp decided to make the best of it. There were a few people living there, mostly Eskimos they were called. They saw Epp’s plight and gave him shelter and warm clothing so he wouldn’t freeze to death. They were very sociable and kind to him, probably as much because he looked so different than they did as their generous and gregarious nature.
Being the sort of man he was, Epp was soon well clothed in skins and furs, had learned to eat the kinds of food they offered and was even beginning to learn the language, albeit haltingly. He went hunting and fishing with the men and relished in the feasts and social gatherings inside their igloos. In fact, they even taught him to make his own. Life up here in the north was about as good as it gets if you learn to adapt. And life was good for Epp.
It was on one of these fishing and hunting trips that Epp first learned of the Square Bear. The men were ice fishing while they waited for seals to come up for air. Well you had to multi – task to provide enough food for the village. One of the things that really impressed Epp was the series of rituals the Eskimos performed in their preparation to hunt and fish, asking permission from the fish and the sea to provide food for their table and giving thanks for its and their provisions. It wasn’t really dissimilar to what he was accustomed to although they were more directly speaking to the animals as though they were kindred spirits. They were it seemed, his kind of people after all.
After several days of fishing and sealing a sudden nervousness arose among the dogs in the team. It was almost imperceptible but they were fidgeting nervously, looking into the distance to the west. The Eskimos immediately began hurriedly hauling up their nets out of the ice holes in a panic state. Moving quickly like a well practiced team, they dumped loads of the fish in their sleds, leaving a large amount behind before taking off to the east in almost fearful fashion.
The only thing Epp could get out of them was that they had to get out of there before the giant Square Bear caught up with them. They hoped the food they’d left for him would be enough to keep him distracted while they got away to their home with what they had left. The dogs were straining at their harnesses as they dashed into the blowing snow. ‘Good’ said the hunters. The snow would cover their tracks and the bear(s) would be unable to track them. They would at least come home with enough food for the village.
Epp didn’t understand any of this at all. He’d have to find out more. Asking questions as they raced across the snow was useless. Dogs and men were fleeing as if for their lives and had no interest in explaining anything. It was a full day of this frantic travel before they started to slow down somewhat, following the dogs who seemed to know where home was in this blowing wind. Finally they stopped to eat a cold bite silently and then carry on into the night. The group traveled on in this way for three days and nights before reaching the welcoming committee at their home.
Things started to come undone at the welcoming feast when all were settled in and had eaten something. The hunters told of the dogs’ sensitivity about the legendary Square Bears and their flight. They were fortunate in having the wind to cover the sled tracks on the way home. That way they would never be found and the Square Bears would have enough food to distract them from giving chase.
Epp tried to enquire about the great Square Bears. Something was bothering him about this whole story. But the people would have none of it. They were far too excited about the adventure to pay any attention to him. He had so many questions and absolutely no answers.
Having spent two whole days and nights eating and drinking and storytelling, the band of people finally got weary and went to sleep one by one without a hint of answering any of Epp’s questions. He himself had slept intermittently and was kept awake by the haunting question. There was obviously a great mystery here that no one would speak about. It must be some kind of taboo. Well you don’t become an archeologist to just accept what you don’t understand, and that’s a fact. What you do is to find out for yourself.
And that’s where the adventure of a lifetime began for Dr. Victor Epp.