The hidden years in Canada 37, Ken's choice

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Sunday 12 April 08:14

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Ken’s choice

Ken fell silent and stared into space. ‘You know’ he said, ‘I suddenly understood the text by Otis Redding very well, you know the hit: Sitting on the dock of the bay, it carried all of the sudden a very different meaning to me. It's strange how everything gets another load if you are considering to perhaps go away forever. You become sad because in your head you have taken the first step to go away forever. Would I be like the adventurer, that my uncle Joe was? I would never walk along Sausalito again and share in the laughter among the houseboats in a love-in, you know Frisco, has a lot of good things. ‘ ‘Frisco,’ I asked? ‘Ah, you know San Francisco, it's really a nice place. The morning fog comes rolling across the bay refreshing the city, the Golden Gate Bridge ‘that spans the same bay. I would never go to 'Muir Woods' again on the north side of the bridge with its redwood trees, some 60 meters high and a thousand years old. Never tour along the coast to go for a Sunday coffee at San Jose or to Santa Monica to hang out on a pier with some friends. I would miss even a store like Macy's, unsurpassed Macy's. There was so much to take leave of, but I also knew I had to act quickly, the time factor was my enemy, I knew that once I had made the choice, it would be definite, I felt like a rider on the storm, from the Doors, but hey what do you want? '

‘Once you were in the system and entered the large transport plane to Nam then you had a problem, boy, and probably you’d come back, but who wants to play Russian roulette?’ The comparison was good, it would prove to have been, like the one bullet in the revolver that you put to your head, and then pull the trigger and if you survived pass it to your neighbour, that’s is what Nam became 1 out of 6 boys in Vietnam was killed.

‘There was more,’ Ken said, ‘I knew what the choice was, before I had chosen, I would not go to Vietnam, it were the consequences of such a choice, which you could not really overlook. You would be despised in your own country, you could not say goodbye to your friends, because you had to sneak out in secret. I went with a coke in my hand and sat in front of the TV and sank away in deep thought, it occurred at a certain point that I realized that there were news flashes on the screen and I returned to reality. Obviously again some offensive in Vietnam and bombing with incendiary bombs, if I had doubted at all, those doubts were gone now, I wanted nothing but nothing to do with what unfolded on the screen. I went to the room where my parents sat together and said, ‘I have something to discuss with you.’

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 ‘The early morning breeze was blowing through the open window of my mother’s car, I would bridge the 800 miles on the Western coast road to Seattle in about 15 hours and an hour later, I would be across the border forever, heading to Vancouver, Canada. Ah, what is there to say about it, you drove and you fuelled up and you ate a burger and you got in and you drove a couple of hours further, I would come along Salem Portland, notorious for its witch hunts, in only recently past and normally I would have visited it, but now I was in a hurry to leave my homeland. Now that the choice was made, I had the idea that each policeman looked my way and Uncle Sam almost had his claws into me. ‘

‘So I came to Canada,’ said Ken, and I have been here a while. ‘ ‘I'll get two cokes for us,’ I said, because it was a story that I knew that was not yet finished, it was a denudation of the soul, in a moment of carelessness and the story had me touched me deeply. It are the pinholes in time and in a few days he would probably not recognize me anymore on the street, but he needed to talk now unthreatened to a total stranger about serious matters. ‘Do you want a Coke,’ laughed Ken? ‘Hey,’ he yelled to a girl. 'Can you bring us two cokes,' 'right on,' said the girl and ran towards the house.

‘Okay,’ Richard said, ‘so he deserted and went to Canada and came across the border. How long ago was that?‘ ‘Two years,’ I said. ‘He lived like an animal. At first, everything was new and he enjoyed to the fullest the natural beauty around the cabin of his dead uncle. He figured that he probably made tea in the same kettle that his Uncle Joe would have used. In the morning he was awakened by the early birds in the trees that greeted the sun. Log cabin was an idealistic name which the cabin did not deserve. The tree trunks which it was made of, were approximately equal length and were stacked in a rectangular shape connected at the corners and smeared with moss. There was a shuttered door, which had a lock missing.

He washed in the river and after a while he stopped shaving. It was bedtime, when you could not see anything anymore. The first time he ate canned food which had filled the trunk of the car. Beans in all colors. He was smart enough to burn his cooking fire, of firewood next to the river. It would not lead to a forest fire. He caught himself out speaking to himself. He occasionally had to chuckle, he would soon turn into an uncle Joe, he lived in his cabin and used his stuff. He altered his food habbits, he became a collector. He dried berries and fished a lot. He could not find it in his heart to snare rabbits. Around the house he planted soyabeans. He did not become hollow-eyed but tawny. ‘

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‘Do you know,’ I said, ‘a lot of people would envy you.’ ‘The reality is always different,’ replied Ken as he sipped his Coke, ‘I tell you the story in words, but I've lived the loneliness and the mosquitoes and the strange sounds at night in the forest. . I went panning, after a few weeks already. You need to do something as a man, born and raised in the free West, that is how we are programmed. Occasionally I went to the village and I did some shopping, match boxes and spirits and things like that. It went too far for me to rub sticks until one ignited. The gold dust was heavier than the sand and after a few days you got the hang of it, slowly moving the pan diagonally,the heavier particles remain at the bottom of pan, which is actually more like a bowl.

After a long time I had a bit of gold dust. I could not freely sell it, so I bought a free miner's certificate from the municipality and with that registration number I sent it to the ore and minerals purchasing office. The check was less than the free miner's certificate had cost. I went back to panning again.

One day I heard voices near the river. An old boss and an Indian were fishing and looked on laughing when they saw me. ‘ ‘You're becoming more and more like poor old Joe,’ said the old boss. ‘He was my uncle, did you know him?’ ‘Yes,’ the man said, ‘I've spent time with him, we panned a lot, sometimes we were more and sometimes less fortunate. Finally I found a nice girl and I chose a life with a secure income. In recent months he had been lucky. ‘ ‘Oh yeah,’ I asked? ‘But that was more upstream. He lately was working about 10 miles upstream.’ ‘How do you know that,’ I asked? ‘Oh, we country boys, now it all. down here,’ laughed the man. ‘He went to eat in the village, and bought new clothes and everyone knew Joe was on to something. He sold copper and gold, they were small nuggets, nothing earth-shattering. But where copper is, gold is present. ‘

The Indian, mingled now in the conversation, ‘he always went towards dead deer well.’ 'Dead deer well, ‘I said, surprised,’ what a weird name.‘ ‘Yes, if you think about it,’ said the man, and he put his feather straight. ‘How do you get there,’ I asked? ‘You follow dead deer brook and at the intersection of dead deer valley, go back to the river.’ ‘Holy shit,’ I said, ‘that cannot be a coincidence.’ ‘What,’ asked the old boss, ‘what can not be a coincidence?’ ‘Those names, 'I said,' dead deer well,' 'dead deer brook,' 'dead deer valley,’ at least there have been a bunch dead deer there. ‘Oh,’ said the old boss, ‘what's in a name?’

‘Are there deer,’ I asked the Indian. ‘No,’ he said, ‘and no rabbits nor beavers. The land is worth nothing. The names are ancient Native American names, they were given many moons back by my tribe and he looked proud. Many chiefs back, my tribe gave the name to this country, I belong to the Iroquoi, we called this land Kanata, which means establishment. ‘I've never wondered how Canada came to his name, I said.’ ‘Ah,’ said the Iroquoi, ‘we always gave names to what we saw.’ ‘The great place near here, Kelowna means in my language, grizzybeer and Kamloops, is a crossing of waterways. So we called the area with the large water swirling in the flow, Saskatchewan and the fertile ground spot, Manitoba, which meant life. ‘

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 ‘Gee,’ I said, ‘so the names with deer in it are old?’ ‘Very old,’ confirmed the Indian. ‘From the time of white men?’ ‘Oh,’ laughed the Indian, ‘the white men are the minute in the day of our presence.’ ‘There have never been deer there,’ I asked again? ‘Never,’ said the Indian and a certain alarm bell went off in my head. ‘How is the land there, I asked, fertile or barren?’ ‘Sandstone,’ said the old boss, only the Juniper plant is rampant there.‘ ‘I did not show my excitement and went down stream a bit to pan a bit more.’

Uncle Joe had died too early, I was sure. That night I tossed and turned on his old mattress. Poor Joe who had toiled all his life, to die on the verge of being rich. I intended to go to dead deer valley.

‘I’l have a beer now,’ said Rico, and I was with him because my throat was fairly dry. ‘Gentlemen,’ said the bartender, ‘a can of beer please Rico said.’ ‘We do not serve beer,’ said the bartender, ‘the cider is on offer’ and we nodded.

San Daniel April 2015

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