Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 01.24.11
Stanstead, Quebec


Is that a probe or are you just glad to see me?

Scientists around the world had been trying to figure out where the remains of a Russian space probe might have crash-landed. The Phobos-Grunt probe had been stuck in Earth's orbit for two months before it fell into the planet's atmosphere Sunday. The Russians apparently lost track of it while everyone at the space agency was on their borscht break.

I didn't know anything about this until yesterday, otherwise I would have let someone know: I have it.

The space junk fell in my back yard late Sunday evening. The family was sitting around the TV watching our new favourite reality show, "So You Think You Can Sail a Cruise Ship...," when we heard the dog barking outside.

What was it? I wondered. Was she alerting us to the presence of intruders? Was it her way of saying, "I too am not tamed, I too am untranslatable/I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world?"? Or maybe a leaf.

"Dog, come here!" I yelled from the door. "Come! Here!" I hollered more loudly. But still she didn't come. This is a game she plays; I have to step out onto the porch in my sock feet before she'll come. I hate this game.

This time, though, she still wouldn't come. I stormed back inside, shoved my wet socks into my boots and trudged out to the driveway to yank the dog inside. When I reached her, I noticed a weird glow coming from the backyard.

"Wow," I thought, "the neighbours have really souped up their hot tub lights."

But it wasn't the hot tub. As I got closer, I saw it was a steaming crater at the back of the property. "Shoot," I said to myself, "I'm trying to grow asparagus back there!"

In the crater was something that clearly once had a shape and purpose but was now mere wreckage, abused and damaged beyond repair. No, not the Canadian Liberal Party. Something else.

On closer inspection, I could see that the charred metal remains included tanks carrying vast quantities of highly volatile toxic fuel unsuitable for human use, which led me to one conclusion: a passing plane had clearly jettisoned its cargo of KFC fryers.

You're probably wondering how we didn't hear the thing land. Well, we did hear a noise but we thought it was just the neighbours zooming up and down in front of the house on their snowmobiles.

Snowmobiles? Make that "grassmobiles," because all they're doing under these snow conditions is tearing up my lawn.

The house did shake a bit, but I just thought that was my son bouncing the basketball again. "Stop it!" I yelled from the other side of the house but he never stops. "Stop! Bouncing!" I holler more loudly. I have to step into the room where he's bouncing before he'll finally stop. I hate this game.

But back to the fuel-laden wreckage (which would be a great name for a band, don't you think?). The next morning, I did what anyone would do: I hooked up the fuel tanks to my furnace. Hey, heating oil is $1.20 a litre! And my house is some toasty now! The kitchen tiles are peeling away but, man, are we cozy!

You'd think it would be hard to extract the fuel from the scorched remains of space junk but it's not rocket science. Well, yes, sort of. You know what is rocket science? Making pie. They say something is "easy as pie" but getting the crust fluffy without making the filling soggy? That's no piece of cake. Making cake, though, is easy as pie. I wonder if rocket scientists can make pie? Moon pies, maybe.

Anyway, if anyone's looking for it, the Phobos-Grunt probe is out back next to the old swing set. It's a mess, all twisted metal and sharp edges. The probe is in pretty bad shape too.

I read that the Russians thought the probe would burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere. Obviously not. Then again, they also thought this thing could make it to Mars...

I also read that the probe is carrying a quantity of highly radioactive Cobalt-57. Looking at what I've just written, that explains a few things. It also explains the dog's spooky glow. On the plus side, it's way easier to spot her when she makes me come out to get her.

What are the words that keep your family tight and your acquaintances confounded? I'd love to know: Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at