Bluenoser in Leamington

This story features my dad in Leamington, Ontario.

It is a rainy morning. It has rained for days. The forecast predicts nothing but more rain. Still, he's walking to work.

It's just a 15 minute stroll from his house to his office. Not a big deal on any other day. But it is wet. It is cold.

He rounds a corner. A boy is walking toward him. He looks to be about nine.

Dad: Well, are you wet yet?

The boy looks undeterred by the weather. He puffs up his chest.

Boy: I'm from Nova Scotia.

Hidden walkways and backyard catapults

Saturday afternoon. In the backyard. The kids play while I do a bit of yard work.

I have finished cutting the tiny patch grass in our new yard. I'm on my hands and knees pulling weeds. But hold on...

What's this? There's brick under this grass. I pull up some more.

More brick! Wow! What's is this?

Jane: Dad, do we have any long pieces of wood I can use?

Me: (absently) Sure. There are some old planks stacked over there by the gate. Find one that doesn't have any nails in it.

Jane: Thanks.

She scurries away.

Where was I? Yes! The bricks!

I grab a trowel from my work box. The layer of sod growing on top of the bricks peels away so easily. There's an old walkway under here!

Jane: Dad, do we have any big rocks?

Me: Um... I think there's a cinder block over by the sandbox. Be careful. It's heavy.

How far does this walkway go? I peel back more sod and find the edges. It's at least four feet wide and runs from the side gate to the deck. I pinch weeds and bits of grass from between the cracks.

Jane: Alice? Can you stand over here for a minute?

I sit on my knees and gaze at what I've uncovered. This is really beautiful. If I clean this up, it'll look really smart.

Jane: No, not there. Right there. On the board. (pause) Yes. Right at the end.

Someone put a lot of work into this. I can't believe I didn't see this before. I'm like a landscape archaeologist. 

Jane: Ready, Alice? 

I look up. Jane has created a see-saw using a long plank and cinder block. Alice stands on the low end. Jane is about to jump on the high end from a perch on the deck.

Jane: One... two....

Me: Jane! Don't jump!

The girls stare at me. The sun shines through their curly hair giving them both halos of gold.

Jane: But Daaaaad. It's a catapult.


Early morning. Alice sits on a stool in the kitchen.

Me: You want toast?

Alice: Yes.

I drop a slice of bread into the toaster. A minute later, it pops up. I grab it.

Me: What would you like on your toast?

She is looking around the room, humming to herself.

Me: Aliiiiice. What would you like on your toast?

Alice: Ummmm. Butter. And jam.

Me: Raspberry, apricot, or strawberry?

Alice: Strawberry.

I butter her toast. I scoop a spoonful of strawberry jam from the jar and plop it on top.


Me: You didn't, actually. But OK.

I scrape as much of the jam from the toast as I can.

Me: Better?

Alice: Better.

I place the plate in front of her. She isn't looking. She is humming. She is chatting with the dog.

She looks back to her toast.

Alice: DAD! I said butter aaaaand strawberry jam! Can't you listen?

I stare at her.

Alice: And, not toasted. Just bread.

It's Willow. Except when it's not.

Sunday afternoon. In the car. Alice is playing with her toy hamster.

Jane: Is her name Wilbow?

Alice: It's Willow.

Jane: Winnow?

Alice: Willow.

Jane: Woollow?

Alice: WILLOW.

Jane: Will-ee?

Alice: For the last time! It's WILLOW! WILL-OW! WILLOW!!!

Jane: Okay okay okay. Willow.


Alice: Actually, it's Sarah.

Nice folk deserve cookies

Sunday afternoon. Still at the farm. Henry is running a fever. I look up the number for Cooper's Red and White -- a small gas and grocery store in nearby Belfast.

Man: Hello.

Me: Hi. Is this Cooper's?

Man: Well, yes. But we're closed Sundays. This is our home number.

Me: Oh, Sorry. This is the number listed online.

Man: That's OK.

Me: You don't know if anything is open today, do you?

Man: What do you need?

Me: Just a bit of Tylenol for our boy. He's running a fever. I don't need to bother you on your day off.

Man: Now, now. Why don't you just come by the store and we'll set you up?

Me: Really?

Man: Really. We live in the house attached to the store.

Me: Wow. I'll be there shortly.

Twenty minutes later, I'm in the store with the girls. The man is ringing up our sale.

Me: Thanks so much. This was very nice of you.

Man: Not a problem. I hope your boy's feeling better.

Me: You're all dressed up. I hope we didn't stop you from going out.

Man: Not really. My wife's gone to a benefit in Iona. I told her I'd meet her there when I was all through here.

Me: Thanks. When my wife heard you were opening special for us, she sent these along.

I pass him a bag of fresh chocolate-chip cookies.

Man: You didn't have to do that.

He smiles.

Man: I'm not going to say 'no' to them, either.

I ask his name. David Cooper. There's a nice fellow for you.

Princess' problem

We are farm sitting for friends. They have four horses, two sheep, a dozen chickens, three dogs, a llama, a donkey, and several cats.

Princess is the charming 35-year-old horse who the other horses tend to pick on. She spends her days in a separate part of the barn, or in her own yard.

She has just walked past the kitchen window for the third time in as many minutes. Something is bothering her. I go outside.

Me: What's the matter?

Princess: I don't like that thing.

Me: (looking around) What thing?

Princess: That thing.

She's pointing her nose at the pickup truck. A blue garbage bag that I'd shoved into the door to keep out the rain is flapping in the wind.

Princess: I don't like it.

I grab the bag and stuff it into the cab of the truck.

Me: Better?

Princess: Yup. Now let's go inside.

We walk to the barn. I open the door and let her in. She stops on her way to her stall to investigate a canvass sack lying by her food bin.

Princess: What's that?

Me: It's a bag.

Princess: What's in it?

Me: You know what's in it. Keep moving.

She looks at me with giant brown eyes.

Princess: Craig would give me what's in that bag, y'know.

Me: Craig's not here. Get in your stall, you big sook.

She walks into her stall. I remove her halter and hang it on its nail. I reach into the canvass sack and pull out an apple. She snaps it in half with her teeth.

Princess: I knew you'd give me one.

Me: Don't talk with your mouth full.

Alice sets the rules early (in the day)

It is 4am. Alice is half awake. She rolls one way, mutters a few half syllables, then rolls back.

Her arms and hands flail and discover another body in her bed. Suddenly alert, she feels around in the dark. She is trying to figure out who this person could be.

Alice: Daaad. No boys allowed.