Log Cabin Chronicles


Royal Orr is a freelance writer based in Hatley, Quebec.

Phil is a fig, but he's our fig (585)
I'll admit, I've gotten kind of sick of 'Phil' (as the rambunctious little tree came to be known in our house) and decided to put it out in the garden this spring. Figs are semi-tropical plants but I deny vigorously that this is fig tree euthanasia -- a glorious summer followed by certain death in our Zone 4, winter deep-freeze.

Thinking about Mid-East history (675)
Sitting in front of me was my Grade 7 British History teacher. She turned around to tell me that she'd read a recent column of mine in The Stanstead Journal and then in a stern, low voice I remember from nearly thirty-five years ago she said, "And I assume you are against this war." Well, I was caught.

Choosing our war heroes (500)
I'd felt pretty hawkish about Saddam Hussein up until that point. I think the world will be a better place without him in Iraq. But getting rid of him means that boys from somebody's village or neighborhood will have to walk into the worst of what the Butcher of Baghdad can throw at them.

Temperance, then and now (600)
My father took The Pledge as a boy. I cannot say whether he would have drunk more had he not, but I certainly can say that he didn't keep it fervently in later life.

How about a nice cup of tea? (375)
I believe I first heard mention of bubble tea on some hipper-than-thou CBC Radio program, the stuff they put on Saturday afternoon when nobody listens except people stuck in cars in remote areas of the country with no other radio choices.

AIDS: Something must be done now (525)
Twenty-million are already dead from the disease worldwide; 40 million are infected; HIV infection rates have hit 35-38 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and are climbing; China, India, and Russia are about to explode with infections -- men, women, and children.

On containing North Korea (640)
You have to search on local cenotaphs to find mention of the Korean conflict. We lost 516 men; about three hundred of them are buried in military cemeteries near Seoul. But we rarely hear from the veterans of this conflict. Why is that?

Soldiers of peace (430)
In a gritty industrial city about an hour north of Bogota, Colombia, three young Canadians wait for their paramilitary executioners.

Watch out for the fat ladies (560)
The Los Quinchos school in Barrio San Judas in Managua, Nicaragua, takes some of the city's toughest kids and turns them into scholars. Most of the children who attend Los Quinchos have spent time on the streets hawking water and snack foods (and sometimes their own bodies) to make a living.

Chelydra serpentina observing (500)
If it's any consolation, if you do lose a digit to a snapper, you could take immediate revenge by carrying the beast home for your own lunch. Snapper soup is considered a great delicacy.

Making do but just getting by on the Moskito Coast (740)
So, we're about 150 miles inland from a seacoast renowned for its isolation - the Moskito Coast of northern Nicaragua. We're headed down what one man described to us as "the worst road in Central America" on the way to a jungle village called Alamikamba. The rainy season should have held off another week or so, but it came early. One night it rained eight inches while we were there.

Let's be a Republic
I think the Quebec government is on to something important here. Something that could fit into the Canadian federation without much of a stretch and make democracy work better. Let's take a careful look before we dismiss it as loony.

Unleashing the dogs of war
Six months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I feel myself being prepared for war. I don't like the feeling.

Spirit of India
It was our last day in India and we were starting out from a small town called Ratlam. We'd come to see a hospital founded by Canadian missionaries nearly a century ago. Unlike many Christian hospitals in India, this one was decrepit and falling apart.

Everyday life set to song
Like the Scottish and Ulster folk poets two hundred years ago, David Francey takes everyday life in Stanstead County and turns it into art. I won't try to saddle him with the title of the Bard of Massawippi. But I will say that he knows how to make poetry and music in which we recognize ourselves immediately but also see the deeper, universal truths that flow through our daily lives.

For communities, money talks (500)
After making this point in a speech that I gave recently in Hull, a senior public servant made a challenging observation: if the link between a community and its institutions is so critical for the survival of both, why do institutional leaders and community leaders often not work together closely or effectively?

It's about our institutions, stupid (500)
In fact, I don't recall that we even used that word "community" very often to describe who we were as English-speaking people in the Eastern Townships. Certainly creating a shared identity as "Townshippers" was one of the major tasks (and perhaps the greatest success) facing the people who came together in 1979 in the newly minted Townshippers' Association. Richmond, Lennoxville, Stanstead, and Cowansville felt like "Four Solitudes" in those first few months of organizing.

This year's heroes (550)
It's hard to say exactly when one generation of heroes begins to be eclipsed. For countries like Canada, the Nineties were a prosperous and carefree time. Our heroes, at least in terms of who was lionized in the media, were business leaders and sports stars.

Flying the unfriendly skies
Airport security has become an obsession with our political leaders, for obvious reasons. In Vermont they already have armed National Guards standing by the metal detectors (though better paid operators probably makes more sense). In Canada, authorities have promised to toughen up too. I travel by plane every month or so for work and so I appreciate an extra effort to keep us safe up in the skies. Where it's all heading, nobody knows. But if we have any more hijackings over the next few months, I expect that getting on any plane in Canada may well be like an experience I had flying with El Al, the Israeli national airline.

Mindano: Part 2
Environmental devastation and human misery. For what? For jewelry.

In the mountains of Mindanao
In the bishop's palace, the word came over the radio that the company security forces had been issued new M-16 rifles.

Foxes and coyotes
Our historic war against foxes - complete with bounties and other aids to extermination - was probably ill-advised.

Loving my radio (400 words)
The radio is the natural companion of the long-distance driver. I wouldn't want to even begin to estimate how many hours of radio I've listened to commuting to Montreal. Let's just say a lot.

Chop & hack, but curse not (400 words)
I felt my mortal soul slip into danger this morning, breaking commandment after commandment as I shoveled the never-ending snow this winter has brought us.

And then the truck began to fishtail (750 words)
Conditioned as I am by every movie chase scene that I've ever viewed, I'm expecting that the truck will burst into a fireball at about this point.

Christmas wreathing no easy job (500 words)
Watch the wire, watch your fingers

Marcus Child: Man of vision, man of action (850 words)
We need more politicians like him.

Jerusalem Artichokes: every gardener ought to grow them once (600 words)
And did I tell you about the flatulence business?

Flying the Friendly Skies of Canada (450 words)
Nobody treated us like cattle.

Yes, lady, Haiti continues to be a dangerous place (600 words)
Taking issue with a reader who feels all is well on the island.

Haiti: blue skies, burning tires (1000 words)
Found guilty for the sins of the past.

Haiti: blue skies, burning tires (700 words)

The hand gun was kept in small kit in the glove compartment.

Don't watch it rot (400 words)

Spare the caulk and spoil the beam

Ode to asparagus (400 words)
Nothing tastes better in Spring than fresh asparagus.

Taking the V-Train (500 words)
Still a train freak after all these years.

Return of the Wolf Spider (400 words)
When it warms up a bit, they're suddenly here.

My Dog Has Fleas
Brothers and Sisters, get yourself a ukelele and live!

On building snow forts and avoiding quinsy (500 words)
You could use a snowblower...

A lot of history down that old road (560 words)
Trekking the historic Bayley-Hazen Road in Vermont.

Not all ivy climbs the hallowed walls (670 words)
Watch where you pee, eh?

The stone is healing me (600 words)
Stung by a hornet, healed by a stone.
From the mouths of babes, old wisdom.

The Inns of Rama (1000 words)
Looking for shelter in Nicaragua.

Vacation eating time in Canada (1000 words)
When in Rome...

What's under the hood (1000 words)
It was young, warm, fuzzy, and scared...

When we did a Kosovo (1000 words)
We really shouldn't feel too righteous.

I dream of skinks (1000 words)
Talking local lizardry.

The tail end of winter. (1000 words)
But there's nothing like sliding and tunnelling.

With just a waffle fork (600 words)
When the coyotes came she didn't hesitate.

The 5-gallon flush remembered (600 words)
Every politician should have to dig up their septic tank.

Part 2: Invading a little Eden (550 words)
It was a hot day in Paradise...

Part 1: Coffee in the desert (565 words)
Fresh coffee in a desert in Israel.

Those Heavenly Big Mamas (400 words)
Ummm, he's writing about clouds...

Back off from toebiters (400 words)
A feisty bug you don't want to mess with.

Rest, my friend, rest (400 words)
And dream of digging deep holes.

The joys of making hay (600 words)
And learning to know the land.

Gimme Pasta!
And give it to me straight.

The cry of the coyote (750 words)
The first time, the sounds sent chills up his spine.

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Copyright © John Mahoney 2003 /Log Cabin Chronicles 07.03