Wednesday, 3 April 2013


I am an explorer, a wanderer, always wondering what is around the next turn in the road or point in the shoreline. I have always been this way, restless and ready to go. I just love the simple pleasure of the open road or open sea, the ease of get up and go, the joy of seeing something for the very first time. I am pretty sure it's genetic and that both parents contributed.

As children living in Stave Falls our pleasures were simple. We could explore the woods, fish in the beaver dam, ride horses, climb trees and just plain run around. With a dozen kids at home there was pretty much always someone around to play ball or tag. On a few occasions running was necessary to escape the wrath of an angered sibling.

One of the things we used to do in summer was walk the five miles to Stave Lake, past the main dam and generating station and on to the diversion dam. There we would scramble around the end of the dam, through the bush and down to the lakeshore for swimming. The big kids would jump off the dam while the smaller kids, myself included, would brave the chill water to swim out to the log booms.

Stave Lake, like many mountain lakes in BC, has a history as a killer. Every couple of years someone dies on that lake even now. As a kid I remember the locals talking about other kids who had drowned in the lake. People boating on that lake ran the risk of hitting partially submerged logs that could easily tip a boat. Others would find themselves in the middle of the lake when the weather turned and the wind swept down the lake fast and hard as a broom over tile, tumbling their boats or canoes, leaving them afloat in an icy lake in the midst of a darkening storm.

Yet when I was only 14 I asked my Dad if I could take our canoe and go up the lake, solo, for a few days. To my amazement, he said yes. So I packed and planned and prepared. On the designated summer day in question, we loaded the canoe and my gear into the truck and drove down to the foot of Stave Lake. My Dad helped me unload the boat and load the gear.

With a brusque "Be careful and don't do anything stupid", he helped me slide the whole shooting match into the lake. He stood there for a bit while I paddled off, then he hopped back into the truck and headed back to the 11 other children and the dozens of things that needed doing back on the farm.

It's important to remember that at 14, I was barely five foot tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. It was a strong 100 pounds, a result of cutting firewood, hauling logs, hefting hay and feeding livestock. Nonetheless, I was mostly a small boy, alone in a canoe on a dangerous lake, paddling off to places without communication or company. We had arranged my return for three days hence, although timing would be interesting since I didn't have a watch. Still, noon was easy to tell and mid-afternoon was a wide target.

I survived with stories to tell. Mostly it was uneventful, like a Boy Scout weekend only without any other Boy Scouts. I had food; I caught fish; I found shelter from a storm; I explored the woods and water. Years later I asked my Dad how he could let me do something that. He said "What was I going to do? Say no? How would that help you?" Then, in the way he did, so I could never be sure if he really meant it or not, he added the capper. He said "And besides, I had lots of other sons at home."

I was never sure what he meant. These days I don't care. His actions were most important. He showed confidence in my abilities; he showed trust my skills; he had faith in my survival. Maybe that's why he was so cavalier about the rest.


  1. I flew in to YVR over Stave Lake last weekend, and thought about your teenage trip. It all seemed to perfectly normal to give a kid a cargo canoe and a fishing rod and say "See you in 3 days". Different times huh?

  2. Did your pa have a favorite son or daughter?

  3. I believe his favourite was always the oldest son however my older brother might argue that. my Dad tended to play one off against the other, creating a competition.

  4. 11 kids thats quite a clan. How many grandkids and greats do your parents have? I envy you. I believe in families. The bigger the better.

  5. 12 kids. 11 plus me. But remember, they are from two mothers. My Mom had 5 and my stepmom had 7. Still, not small families. And my Mother remarried later as well.

    So here is my best guess for my Mom - 8 grandchildren (not including step-grandchildren) and 3 great grandchildren.

    Now if you want to start counting steps, then I just don't know for sure anymore.