(Photo submitted by Ed McMackin)

(Photo submitted by Ed McMackin)

Tales over hot apple sauce, maple syrup and flapjacks

By Ed McMackin

It seems, living in a country such as Canada and the northern United States, people have had their favourite stories to tell around the campfire, kitchen stove, fireplace, and so on, anytime there are family and friends around.

That tradition has somewhat faded. Many stories disappear after generations grow up. Living in a small town or farm in the country many stories are tokens of the great north country, the wilderness that once comprised a greater portion of southern Canada and northern U.S.

Some of these stories have been passed down from “pioneers” or passed along in families and amongst friends.

There was once an uncle of mine who “knew the woods.” He had gone hunting many times but, somewhat like a person window shopping, never stopping to buy, he never bagged much.

One thing perhaps unique about my uncle was when one asked him for directions, he never expected to find out how to get there, at least not until a lot of tales had been told.

He had a story for every turn in the road, every brook passed, every bridge crossed and every old family cemetery or little mounds over children’s graves, typhoid victims, one might stumble over in the woods, when hunting, of course.

Three men went out to the woods to hunt. In that country, there were lots of abandoned remains of farms with old apple trees about – a great place to hunt, if you had permission. They came to this little meadow where they discovered a deer trail going into the deep grass. And guess what? There in the meadow was a deer. One of the trios took up a position on one side of the meadow while the other two spread out around the meadow while keeping the deer in sight.

At some point, the deer sunk in the grass and they closed in on the spot only to find no deer. If the deer had made a getaway to the side the men surely would have seen it over the grass, but no deer.

They did spot a trail through the grass where the deer had escaped on its knees. Animals are not only smart, but some are curious. They can be attracted by unusual little tapping or clicking sounds. Some outdoors, people have drawn moose by tapping a penknife on another metal object. One needs to watch their back because a moose might come in from behind.

When I first settled on the property, moose were almost regular visitors. An old single-lane road was the only access. The plywood cabin and single-pane windows didn’t block out much sound. Most of the sounds, especially at night, were nothing like we heard while living in town. So it took a few weeks to reach the point where we weren’t saying, “What’s that?” We awoke early one mourning to a sharp snapping sound. “Did you hear that?” Looking, we saw two moose staring at the cabin from about 15 feet — the ticking of the clock that attracted them.

The following little account is not an original with me, but I couldn’t leave it out. It circulated among national park’s naturalists and boy scout groups for years. (This should thrill every prairie person here in the valley who thinks there is a bear behind every tree).

The other day I met a bear. A great big bear, oh way out there. He looked at me, and I looked at him. He sized me up, and I sized up him. He said to me, “Why don’t you run? I see you don’t have any guns.”

And so I ran, away from there, And, right behind me was that bear. Ahead of me, I saw a tree, a great big tree, oh me, oh my. The lowest branch was ten feet up. I had to jump, And, trust my luck. And so I jumped, into the air, but I missed that branch, oh way up there. Now don’t you fret, now don’t you frown, I caught that branch, on the way back down. This is the end, and there ain’t no more unless I see that bear once more. (BSOA). Don’t talk to bears!

Once a golden-mantled ground squirrel visited a roadside stop where I was parked to have some lunch. I squatted to offer the little critter a piece of cracker. It passed by in front of me, ignoring the cracker. I thought this one is a healthy eater. But, not so. It circled behind me and took hold of one of the two whole crackers I held in my hand behind my back. When I let it go, the squirrel ran off with this “cracker,” which seemed bigger than its head. I am not sure animals are always aggressive in proportion to their size. (I won’t tell you the cracker I offered was really a cookie).

Have a pleasant and safe holiday season!

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