BLACKBIRD

blog photo 211 blackbirdWHAT IT IS

The stark red numbers of the cheap alarm clock had Graham entrenched in a staring contest he would not win. He rubbed the brows of his eyes in hope of victory, but 3:06 AM was the reply. As he did every time he woke early, his right hand grabbed his left and searched for his two missing fingers; still missing. Trying not to disturb the other sleeping agents, Graham snuck into the kitchen, sat down with a glass of orange juice and became bemused at a strange looking orange teddy bear perched on the refrigerator.

Like most sentient teddy bears, Babs could remain inert for hours or even days and when necessary weeks at a time. Sitting straight and stoic, Babs listened as Graham’s numerous tirades filled the kitchen. Chief among Graham’s rants was the fact INSECT just lost two thousand robotic nano bugs in a fight with No.1’s elite group of insects. Graham’s visceral reaction and obvious distain for No.1, made Babs relieved that he didn’t know it was her who advised No.1 to strike before the robots were fully ready.

While the morning light wrestled into visibility, Graham received a call from Rene Boudreaux in Louisiana. Rene had found the missing four pales of 1,4 Dichloropropene and he and five CHAPS were personally delivering the cargo to Lake Springfield later that week. A beaming Graham left the kitchen and Babs slipped off the refrigerator, congratulated a blackbird on his singing prowess and returned to her cabin.

WHAT IT IS NOT

The conductor said it was a problem with the track, then he said a swarm of grasshoppers flew into the engine’s air intake and finally he admitted that for some unknown reason, the diesel engines just stopped working. An overnight layover just outside Indianapolis was good news for Justine Flagstaff and  her beloved teddy bear Leo. She gathered up Leo and her belongings and readied herself for a peaceful night at Mae’s B&B.

On a privately owned, left handed dirt track some eight and a half furlongs long, just outside Greensburg, Indiana a teddy bear sat on top of a flagpole and was soon joined by a dragonfly. The tete-a-tete lasted long into the night with speculation being the only certainty as to what transpired. The night watchman claimed to have heard ticking sounds, reminiscent of the telegraph that then morphed into unfamiliar musical notes, then into syllables and finally words. The confused watchman related that the point that is infinity keeps shifting in this terrestrial world with the abstract rush into oblivion not born of conscious thought, but more of a stupor state of indifference and ignorance. The path stumbles along, gathering up essences for examination and dismissal, more examination and more dismissal until the whole exercise gets lost in political rhetoric, economic bravado and social voodooism. The i’s get dotted, the t’s crossed and the point that was infinity gets changed again. It is most likely that beyond infinity is some kind of paradise a dragonfly may wonder, why we didn’t take advantage of already, because we have it, we had it, but still alludes the clean grasp, the solid hit.

This world of abstractions didn’t touch the dragonfly or the teddy bear in a direct way as they sat on the flagpole, but like a tsunami, they, and the singing blackbirds, would be swept up in it and deposited in a place where paradise was scarce and the point of infinity would change again.

MIST

blogphoto159tree-mistWHAT IT IS

Samantha Gallant was one not to be trifled with and the Chaps would soon learn who they were up against as she kicked over the first motorcycle, then a second, then a third until the entire gang abandoned Margaret Brookside and took off to stop her destructive tirade. That was about the effect Samantha hoped for and as the gang closed in on her she jumped into Margaret’s car, sped directly toward the gangsters watching as the angry bikers dove away from the oncoming car. Screeching to a halt in a dust cloud, Margaret jumped into the passenger seat and the two women headed back to New Orleans.

Looking at one another while squeezed into a six foot wooden crate Samantha and Margaret simultaneously whispered -why-did-we-come-back-here? Perhaps it was Margaret’s naivete or Samantha’s unbridled tenacity, but the two women found themselves back at the dilapidated garage, where they first encountered the Chaps. The order went out to Mauls, a beast of a man and a loyal Chaps foot soldier, to check and secure the garage. Samantha peered through a knot hole in the crate as Mauls, a length of chain wrapped tightly around one hand and a three foot pipe wrench in the other, walked slowly in their direction. He rhythmically slammed the wrench into his chained palm sending a sharp, metallic sound echoing through the near empty building. As he closed in on them, Samantha could see headlights bleeding through the cracked, barn board siding of the garage and with the arrival of this vehicle, Mauls did an abrupt about face and joined the other Chaps outside.

Samantha knows the result of a broken knee when she sees it, and as a pilot she has seen plenty. She starred through the knot hole at two men each carrying five gallon pails of something very heavy in both hands. Their gait was crooked and wobbly, their arms unable to hold the pails high enough to keep them from randomly clipping the spongy wood floor. They were told to put the pails into the wooden crate and Samantha’s eyes pivoted from the knot hole to an ashen faced Margaret Brookside.

It is indeed strange how a few well chosen words can lift one’s spirits, can give a whole new meaning to some one’s life or can transform a simple moment in time into something so beautiful, so unexpected. This was the way Margaret and Samantha felt when they heard the words…not that crate, the other one!

A heavy mist overtook New Orleans and when the last Chap deserted the garage, Margaret and Samantha crawled out of their wooden prison. The crate next to them was the object of their interest and when they popped open the lid the four steel pails were nearly invisible, covered in every industrial hazardous label known to man:  the corrosive boney hand, the bright red fire decal, the radioactive nuclear insignia and of course the skull and crossbones. Samantha delicately removed an information sheet from a see through envelope, the contents were labelled as an experimental pesticide: 1,4 Dichloropropene-Not for Resale-Not for Import/Export-Not for Atmospheric Use-For Federal Experimental Use Only! Samantha thought of an INSECT agent she knew that might be able to help them figure out why a motorcycle gang would have such a chemical.

WHAT IT IS NOT

It had been foggy, misty and raining for the last three days, but that didn’t stop expert tracker and trapper Bulldog Snipes from his dusk to dawn search for Bill and Emma. He had been over the same area off Hwy 537 a number of times believing the frail couple could not have gotten very far. The fourth day broke as did the others, with low temperatures and a heavy mist, reminding Bulldog just how much arthritic pain he would endure that day. He walked across an old hay field now filled with pigweed, burdock and dandelions and entered a thick, dark jack pine plantation. The self pruning trees left a tangled mess of twisted and gnarled branches on the ground making his progress difficult. It was at the end of the plantation, along a small stream, that Bulldog found the bodies of Bill and Emma.

Every OPP officer has a favorite road to patrol, perhaps because of a good restaurant, perhaps because of the type of folks they tend to meet or just because of the scenery or the quality of the day’s journey. Jessica Potts’ favorite patrol was Hwy 537, a quiet secondary highway with lots of curves, slow traffic and tons of friendly people. On a foggy Friday morning, Jessica exited Hwy 17, turned south on 537 and was about fifteen kilometers down the road when she saw a black SUV down an embankment and half submerged in a stream.

After radioing for help, she inched her way down the steep embankment to offer assistance but there was no one in or around the vehicle. The plates revealed the SUV was a rental, one Floyd Smith had picked it up in a nearby city the previous day, leaving Jessica to wonder who was William Offley Jr. whose driver’s license she found on the driver’s side floor.

ELLIE’S STORY CONTINUES

Slim had them put up this sign after his experience.

Ellie's Story Continues...4.jpg

Slim Clemons was a big man, weighing in at 365 pounds.  To accommodate his girth, he had a big office, over 5,000 square feet.  And, Slim had big ambitions to match his ample size.  He was a high-stakes producer, organizing and promoting horse races, sporting events, beauty pageants and music extravaganzas.  In addition, Slim had a large investment portfolio consisting of the kind of stocks that produced fast money: start-ups, mining, and energy sources.

Slim loved his fast-paced, high-pressured career, but once a year, he would fire up his luxury 40-foot recreational vehicle and take his family on an ostentatious camping vacation.   Despite the luxury accommodation that defined camping in a whole new way, Slim liked a little unexpected adventure built into his vacation.  As such, he would sit in his office on the 30th floor of Salesforce Tower in Indianapolis studying a large map of North America while massaging a dart between his thump and index finger.  After counting to ten, Slim would launch the dart, and it would sail toward the map, puncturing the map at the destination towards which Slim would drive the R.V.  This year the dart landed on Missaussagga Provincial Park in Northern Ontario, Canada.

This was Slim’s first trip to Northern Ontario, and although the mosquitoes and black flies were considerably bigger than he had expected, and their large numbers were keeping his wife inside the recreational vehicle, Slim was content.  On the fourth nightin the wilderness, Slim was reading an old Kurt Vonnegut Jr. novel when something outside the R.V. caught his eye.  Always a man of action, Slim grabbed his Glock G19 handgun from the bedside table and headed outside.

The park was dark, as dark as the Alberta oil in which Slim had recently invested.  Slim gripped the Glock, his arm outstretched, swaying from side to side.  As his eyes became accustomed to the dim light, he began to make out small animals scurrying around the forest floor and swinging from tree branches.  Suddenly a loud, piercing female voice shattered the silence “Shot one of those teddy bears and that’s it for you Buster.”

Slim heard a high-pitched but muffled scream behind him.  He spun around and there was Ellie hanging from a branch just inches away from his face.  He backed up, tripped over a rock and crashed to the ground.   He looked up at Ellie highlighted by the moon that had serendipitously come out from behind a cloud as if it understood this moment needed to be emphasized. Slim’s heart swelled in his chest: the teddy bear was beautiful.  Right at that moment the 2017 Miss Teddy Bear North America Beauty Pageant was hatched in Slim’s mind.

THE TURKEY VULTURE

Can a turkey soar?

 

turkey vulture 3
Turkey Vulture Soaring

 WHAT IT IS

 

The National Bird and Mammal Institute in Ottawa, Ontario recently loaned the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry a trained turkey vulture for help in the sighting of forest fires.

The excellent eyesight of this bird makes it especially useful for night observations. The pictured turkey vulture is responsible for detecting two forest fires and one cabin fire in its first week of service.

Unfortunately the cabin fire destroyed the structure, but the two individuals occupying the cabin made it to safety.  Sapphire took this photo of the bird as it flew overhead.

 

WHAT IT IS NOT

Every year the World Champion Kite Flying Contest is held near Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, Canada. This year, however, contestants from Ontario and Quebec threatened to boycott the event due to inconsistencies in the judging of the event.

Complaints have skyrocket in recent years, with kite flying clubs complaining that the aerial component of the events were not consistently judged.

To address these concerns,  the Board of Governors of the World Championship event has hired a trained turkey vulture to fly among the kites and render final judgements.

THE WATERFALL

THE WATERFALL

                                                              WHAT IT IS
My brother has loudly declared on many occasions his distrust of soothsayers but his bias towards science has caused him no end of problems as well. When an old gentleman from Tomiko Lake said he knew of a green frog that placed pebbles in the shape of constellations, Cricket had to see this himself.

Our ride along Hwy 64 was uneventful and when we arrived at our destination, the hunt for the green frog was on in earnest.

Unfortunately, Cricket never found the frog.  Instead, he slipped on some wet rocks and was swept down this fast-moving creek.  I took this photo just as Cricket popped up from beneath the water.

 

WHAT IT IS NOT

As often as she can, Sapphire makes a pilgrimage to this waterfall to collect a few containers of water.  She uses this precious liquid to water a special rosebush given to her by a lady from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

Sapphire claims that the water gives the rose a most robust quality and it even allows the pollinators to travel great distances.  In fact, it is said, pollinators of this rose may have been seen as far away as the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

THE FLYING DUCK

Why would a duck attack a drone or apply for a job in a ballet?

blog phoho 18 flying ducks.CR2.jpgWHAT IT IS

Cricket and I usually don’t find ourselves in South America, but on one occasion we were actually on a tour of Pablo Escobar’s compound in Medellin, Columbia. After the tour, we were relaxing on our hotel balcony when a drone appeared out of nowhere. As the drone was hovering in front of us, a duck smashed into the drone causing its destruction.

We later found out that twenty ducks are used by state run authorities to disrupt drug cartel drones, which they use for everything from communications to actual drug deliveries.

 

WHAT IT IS NOT

A few weeks before the production was to open, Sapphire took this photo of an Ugly Duckling hopeful as he flew around St. James park in Toronto.

On his Facebook page this duck wrote, “Mildred Duck says I’m too cute for the Ugly Duckling … she’s right.”