We all walked to school in those days. Me, my little sister and pain-in-the-butt kid brother came up Kehl Road and turned right on Highway 71 for the final half mile to school. Quite a few kids came down Hammond Road and we seldom reached the pavement at the same time, so what with the Miller kids, and the kids from Walter Sparks’s (where the golf club now sits), we were spread out along the highway shoulder. With 30 to 32 students, half of which came from the east, we were an unorganized herd of wildlife. At 4 o’clock, we all left, east and west en masse. The rules of the Serengeti (pick off the oldest or weakest) never came into play. We all survived—and did our parents ever worry? I guess they figured we had enough brains to look before crossing the road.
It was coming spring—snowball weather! I was maybe 12, old enough to know better, but too dumb to think of consequences. It started out innocently enough, pasting passing loads of wood, then escalating somewhat to truck doors and fenders, knowing full well that a wood truck would not stop or turn around.
Then a car came along: an old car, a slow car, and I knew whose car it was. They were a poor family from a village farther west, on “welfare” our parents would say, their tone of voice indicating to snobbish kids that we were “better” than them.
My aim was right on. I nailed them on the side of the hood, and that son-of-a-gun car stopped on a dime. Uh-oh! Hammonds and Hills, and DeGagnes and Durnins leapt over the guide wires tumbling down through the snow to Kitchen Creek, leaving me high and dry. There was no escape for me anyway. I knew I had done wrong, and whatever was coming I deserved. That gent was as angry as I have ever seen a man, before or since. He grabbed my shoulder, turning me toward the car.
What if the snowball had gone through the open window, hitting the baby? What if it had hit his wife? What if it had missed them and hit him, causing him to lose control of the car? Then he spun me around and gave me a swift kick in the bum—lifted me right off my feet, it did!
As he drove away, snow-covered kids crawled back to the highway, laughing and jeering. I cared little about that. What I cared about was making sure that my sister and brother would not tattle. If Dad ever found out, I would be a dead man.
Over the next 40 years or so, I would run into that guy from time to time. We always smiled and nodded, and if words were spoken I always added “sir.” The thing was, he had showed “dignity” that day, and for the first time in my life I understood what the word meant. That Kitchen Creek ass kicking taught me more than I ever learned in school.
Excerpt adapted with permission from I Call Myself a Prospector by Bob and Frank Durnin (coreshackpub.com)
Jules Torti’s work has been published in The Vancouver Sun, The Globe & Mail, travelife, Canadian Running and Coast Mountain Culture. With experiences as a canoe outtripper, outdoor educator, colouring book illustrator and freelancer, she is thrilled to be able to curate, write and read about the very best things in life.