The Tale Spinner

Vol. XXIII, No. 2

January 14, 2017


  • Mike Yeager organizes old family photographs
  • Jean Sterling remembers a rare snow day in Florida
  • Tom Telfer forwards the story of a dedicated teacher
  • Rafiki sends a cat's conditions for living with a human
  • Burke Dyke's story is about a very bad day
  • The editor reminisces about life in a lumber camp
  • Sites are suggested by Barbara Wear, Don Henderson, Gerrit deLeeuw, Judy Lee, Shirley Conlon, and Tom Telfer

Mike Yeager writes in his blog about


I’ve begun the laborious task of transferring all of my family’s slides to digital photos. The slides start in the mid-fifties and go into the early sixties. My dad took a lot of pictures, three shoe boxes full. In the nineties, after both of my parents had died, I went through the slides, throwing many away and putting the rest in little plastic boxes with labels on the top. Besides the family slides, we also have boxes of photographs out in the garage that need to be scanned sometime in the future.

I bought a slide scanner online. It was cheap, made in China, but had more stars than the other scanners. One problem is that it cuts the pictures off on the sides. It's like watching a movie made for a newer rectangular screen TV on an old square TV. Sometimes you see two noses talking to each other, with the rest of the two persons out of view. Most of the slides are not affected by this because the subject is in the center of the frame. But in a few pictures, where people were sitting around a table or in the living room, I had to decide whether to leave out the person on the right or the person on the left, or to shift the slide and scan the picture twice.

It was one of those “people sitting around in the living room” pictures that caused me to pause and seriously question this whole project. My Grandmother had two good friends, Elsie and Amanda. Neither of them ever married and they shared an apartment. We called it a “flat” but I don’t know why. I never knew the history of either of these women, but as a boy, they both seemed very old, in their old lady print dresses and big clunky black shoes. My Dad referred to them as the “high kickers,” which my sister and I thought was funny. They were both very sweet ladies and always nice to us kids.

In the picture, Elsie was sitting on one side of the living room and Amanda on the other. I had to decide which one to cut out, or whether to shift the slide and scan two pictures. Then it struck me. Who cares? Who will ever want to look at these pictures? My sister will enjoy looking at them, maybe once. But for some reason, I could not forever cut out either Elsie or Amanda. After all, they were always part of our extended family gatherings.  

On Christmas or Thanksgiving the family gathered at my grandparents' house in south St. Louis. These were happy occasions. Grandpa Ben (died in 1959) sat at one end of the table and Grandma (not in the picture, either she or Grandpa had to be cut) at the other. I have a picture which shows only some of the family, but for me captures the essence of that fleeting time, which I thought was forever.

I’ve seen these old slides so many times over the years, I can’t look at them from an objective viewpoint. Dad would set up the screen and projector in the living room, which seemed like a major deal, and we sat mesmerized, looking at ourselves on vacation or at family functions. Dad had humorous comments for almost every slide, and some of his comments were “off-color.” Mom would then say in a stern voice, “Kenneth!” and my sister and I would laugh. I even scanned a picture of a robin on our dead front lawn. Mom made such a big deal about what a crappy (my word not hers, she rarely used any bad language) picture it was, insinuating that it costs a lot of money to get slides developed, so don't waste them.

These are a few of my favorites. For me each one still captures some of the security, freedom and hope of my childhood, which seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way to adulthood.

A big snow in Ferguson meant school was cancelled. In the morning, when I first opened my eyes to the soft, reflected light of snow filling my room, I knew the day ahead had been transformed into an exciting adventure.

I was given a puppy for Christmas when I was three. I named her Cookie. She slept at the foot of my bed and went everywhere with me when I was a boy. She died when I was in Vietnam.

At Ranch Royale, we camped and rented horses. We were allowed to ride anywhere on the  huge property, unsupervised.

One of my favorite trips, in 1958, was to Hannibal, Mo., where we visited the boyhood home of Samuel Clemmons. The books "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" were my childhood favorites. When we toured the cave where Becky and Tom had to hide from Indian Joe, the tour guide turned out the lights. It was dark and scary.

Sometime my sister, Karen, went along on these adventures.

My mom had a friend from work named Alma who owned a farm house down in the Ozarks. We went there quite a few times. In the winter I explored the woods with Cookie. I always had my BB gun, but never shot at any animals. I was afraid I might hit one. In the summer I fished in the local stream and we swam in a large lake nearby. Alma was sometimes there when we were, and she made big breakfasts - - pancakes, bacon and fruit. She also cleaned and cooked the fish I caught.

Baseball was a big part of my life growing up. In the St. Louis area we had the Kourey League. One of the highlights of my boyhood was getting to play at Bush stadium in the Kourey League All Star game.

ED. NOTE: To see the photos mentioned above, go to Mike's blogpost at


Jean Sterling, prompted by the video on how to drive on icy roads, writes: It doesn't snow here in Central Florida often, but it does snow on rare occasions. It snowed here and all the way down to Fort Lauderdale in South Florida in 1977. My kids, all born in Florida, had never seen snow and thought it was very exciting. The local TV station interviewed people and the locals said they thought it was exciting. Snow birds (winter visitors) were less enchanted, saying they had come to Florida to get away from such nonsense.

The next day our high temperature was in the 30s. Electric heat is not efficient below 40 degrees. Since most people have electric heat, the power company requested that the schools take the day off to help them keep up with the demand for power. So that was the kids' one and only snow day.

There was also some snow right along the coast sometime in the '80s. The local media referred to it as ocean-effect snow.

ED. NOTE: For the past eight years, we who live on the west coast of Canada have had very little snow, though quite a lot of rain. When we were hit by an unexpected flurry of snow and ice at the beginning of December, many people and whole cities were caught unprepared. There was an instant demand for salt, and city workers were pressed into service to clear snow-covered streets and sidewalks. During the last few days the sun has been shining, though it is still zero, and the streets are finally mostly clear. The snow is still piled in heaps beside the sidewalks and streets. We are fervently hoping that this is the last we will see of winter this year, but it is early still and we may yet get a lot of that white stuff. I am doing rain dances. ;)

Tom Telfer shares this story from his friend John Kumpf:


It's a long story going back to 1965 when I was teaching an intermediate class at Tecumseh school in London, Ont.

About the middle of October, Doug Reader, Superintendent of Special Education, showed up at my classroom, and after a 20-minute tour of the classroom, pronounced me the best intermediate teacher in the city. He did, however notice that I only had 23 students on the roll, and that the class maximum was 24. He then said that he had a student that he wanted me to try, adding that I didn't have to keep him if it didn't work out. That should have been my first clue.

The upshot was that "Gary" became a part of my class. Gary had been hit by a dump truck when he was four, and he had some very unusual behaviours. He was prone to announcing that he was Superman and running around the room. He suffered frequent bouts of paranoia, and threatened to punch the lights out of any kid who he thought was looking at him the wrong way. The list of his impulsive behaviours would fill a page.

He had been in five other schools that year, and none could tolerate his disruptive behaviour. In my naiveté, I enlisted the rest of the class to be Gary's mentors. It was the first time many of them had been given such responsibility. Gary became a class project, and he lasted the full two years. The bonus was that it was the best thing that had ever happened to many of the other students in the class.

At the end of the two years, Gary went to Thames and I went to Ross. Gary lasted three weeks at Thames, and I lasted 30 years at Ross.  

Because of Gary, I developed an interest in brain injury and wound up on the Board of Directors of Dale Brain Injury Services, a new brain injury rehab service located in an old farmhouse at the corner of Southdale Road and Wonderland Road, where a Canadian Tire Store now stands.

When I retired in 1998, the Executive Director of Dale Brain Injury Services, whom I had hired, was on the board of directors of the Ontario Brain Injury Association, which was searching for an executive director. She urged me to apply and to my great surprise, I was offered the job.

I agreed to do it for a year, but the year turned into two, and then three, until it reached 12 in 2010, when I retired. However, I had coauthored a textbook for educators, and authored another for personal support workers on how to understand and manage people who have suffered a brain injury (there are an estimated 500,000 in Ontario.)

Along with the textbooks, I had developed two-day workshops, which have attracted not only educators and personal support workers, but folks from every medical discipline, as well as lawyers, probation officers, and in one case, 50 personnel from a corrections facility. The most satisfying consumers of my workshops are the family members who are struggling to cope with new reality of an injured family member.

To date, about 4500 people have taken the course, and in spite of my threats to retire again, I have a workshop scheduled for Sudbury and another in Peterborough. It's hard to say no. So they may have to postpone my funeral until after I complete my commitment to some future workshop.

Rafiki sends


1.  I am Lord of the house.

2. Thou shall have no other pets before me.

3. Thou shall never ignore me.

4.  I shall ignore thee whenever I choose.

5.  Thou shall be grateful that I give thee the time of day.

6.  Thou shall remember my food dish and keep it full.

7.  Thou shall provide abundant toys and treats for me.

8.  Thou shall always  have a lap ready for me to curl up in.

9.  Thou shall shower me with attention.

10. Above all, thou shall do anything it takes to keep me happy.

-  Author unknown

Burke Dykes describes


There I was is sitting at the bar staring at my drink, when a large, trouble-making biker steps up next to me, grabs my drink, and gulps it down in one swig.

"Well, whatcha gonna do about it?" he says menacingly, as I burst into tears.

"Come on, man," the biker says, "I didn't think you'd CRY. I can`t stand to see a man crying."

"This is the worst day of my life," I say. "I'm a complete failure. I was late to a meeting and my boss fired me. When I went to the parking lot, I found my car had been stolen, and I don't have any insurance. I left my wallet in the cab I took home. I found my old lady in bed with the gardener, and then my dog bit me.

"So I came to this bar to work up the courage to put an end to it all. I buy a drink, I drop a capsule in and sit here watching the poison dissolve; then you, you jack-ass, show up and drink the whole thing!

"But enough about me. How's your day going?"

As promised, here is my story of


After moving from Saskatchewan to BC, my family lived in a number of camps around the Shuswap Lake, with my father working as a lumberjack and my mother as the camp cook. Eventually, Dad got to the place where he owned his own small camp, and in 1930, the whole family moved there. Beside my mother and dad there were my sister Nell and me and two uncles, Albert and George. To flesh out the crew there were other workers who came and went as the spirit moved them.

Dad and his brothers built the three-roomed log cabin he and mother and my sister lived in, and the bunkhouse where the rest of the crew lived. They also built a barn for the horses and equipment, and a pigpen to contain the resourceful pigs, which seldom remained in the pen for long. There was an outhouse, of course, and a root cellar where we stored winter vegetables like potatoes, carrots, turnips, cabbages, onions, and apples. Before the winter was over, most of the vegetables would have sprouted and become soft. We ate them anyway.

Everything in the camp was brought in by the White-Smith, a flat-bottomed, two-decked scow that serviced the lake once a week. Feed for the horses (and the horses themselves), tools, lumber, groceries, mail-order clothing and toys, newspapers, mail - all arrived on the eagerly-looked-for barge, which we usually saw as soon as it rounded the farthest point on its way out from Sicamous.

My mother was the camp cook, washer of clothes and bedding, feeder of pigs, and generally overworked lone woman in camp. Dad and the crew cut trees by hand, with cross-cut saws and axes, and snaked them out of the bush with huge Clydesdales. Some of the trails were so steep on the mountains that they had to wrap steel cables around the ends of the logs and then wrap the cables around stumps beside the trails, paying them out with leather-gloved hands to prevent the logs from overrunning the horses. They wore out many pairs of gloves and burned holes into the stumps with this maneuver. When the logs had been landed on the beach, they were put in piles until they could be rolled into the water and assembled in booms. Periodically, one of the three tugboats on the lake would collect the booms and haul them off to the mills.

The cabin was primitive. There was no running water, no electricity, no phone, no central heat. We carried all our water; we used coal oil and gas lamps; we had a cook stove with a copper boiler for warming water and a barrel turned on its side and propped up on iron legs to heat the house. We used hot bricks wrapped in cloth to warm our frigid beds in winter.

We consumed prodigous amounts of food. For breakfast there were always stacks of sourdough pancakes, bacon, eggs, jam, and buckets of coffee. We also ate porridge with canned milk and brown sugar. Lunch was as large as supper, if the men were in camp: meat, potatoes, root vegetables, always pie and fruit. Mother baked pies every day, and made a gallon of applesauce. The men would take a whole pie in addition to sandwiches in their lunch buckets. They worked hard and undoubtedly burned it all off. The food was plain and not necessarily wholesome, but it was plentiful. The meat from the pigs and the beef brought in by the scow were sometimes supplemented with fish and venison. One Christmas we had a 13-pound steelhead stuffed and roasted instead of turkey.

It was Nell's and my job to carry all the water for the camp from a small creek which seemed a great distance from the house, especially in the winter when we had to break a trail through the snow. (It wasn't really that far, as I found when I revisited the site many years later.) I split all the wood for the house, which I rather enjoyed and became quite good at. (One Christmas I got a single-bitted axe to replace the double-bit I had been using. I was happy to get it.) My sister had to carry the wood into the house and stack it. In addition, we were expected to set and clean off the communal dining table, and help with the dishes. We also swept the rough wooden floor, which didn't make much difference. (Caulked boots are murder on wooden floors.) For these chores, we received five cents a day, a fortune we spent in Eaton's catalogue or on our rare excursions to town.

We took correspondence courses from the Department of Education in Victoria. These lessons were much more thorough than those we later received in elementary school. We had to rewrite every story in the readers in our own words (with a little help from Mother); we had math and spelling and history, all meticulously marked by dedicated teachers. In addition, they sent us library books which would be considered far beyond the scope of students our age today: after a spate of King Arthur stories, which Nell and I vigorously emulated with boiler lids and home-made swords, Mother asked that they send somthing a little less stimulating. The grounding these lessons provided put us ahead of the other students when we left the bush and went to school in Salmon Arm.

With only each other to play with, Nell and I improvised most of our own amusements. We built a small log cabin modelled after the big one, for which we cut and notched the logs as we had seen the men do. We saved peelings from potatoes and apples and preserved them in jam cans (which eventually blew their lids when the stuff fermented.) We swam all summer long, and ran the booms, and played in the boats and canoes, all without lifebelts, of course. We swung out over the creek in a swing the men built us, and wandered at will through the bush, and played on the ice in the winter. (I sometimes wonder if Mother was trying to get rid of us; or perhaps she didn't know what we were up to.)

We were given a runt pig for a Christmas present one year. She weighed six pounds. We called her Betty, after the neighbour who gave her to us, and played with her and rode her and teased her until she became so big she could no longer be considered a pet, but rather, food. The day they butchered her, we left home. We refused to eat her, of course, and I suspect that was the beginning of my aversion to eating red meat. We also petted the huge horses, and gingerly held up sugar lumps for them to eat, and once in awhile were allowed to sit on them and ride a short distance. The ground was a long way off, and it was like straddling a large barrel, but we loved it. We also had rabbits, which eventually mated with wild rabbits and produced timorous little babies which we never succeeded in taming. And we had a dog, which tried to "kill" every tree that was felled, endangering himself and annoying the men. We used to stand small trees back up and push them over for his amusement - and ours.

Some toys came from the catalogue. The pigs ate one of Nell's dolls, and she was so distressed that Mother had order another doll immediately. Of course, it was weeks before it arrived, and when it did come, it was a poor substitute for the lost one. But she loved it and called it Annabelle. Most of our toys were home-made. Uncle Albert made us a toboggan by steaming a piece of board in a boiler of boiling water. It wasn't much of a toboggan, but it slid. We whittled our own swords and arrows, and fashioned bows from saplings. We also whittled boats and made whistles from twigs and built huts from log ends on which we nailed gunny sacks. (Looking back, I am amazed at the tools we were allowed to use - axes and knives and hammers and saws. Maybe she really was trying to get rid of us.)

We read everything that came to hand. I still have the "Alice in Wonderland" I received when I was seven. During my childhood I read all of Dickens, Kipling, Henty; "Treasure Island," "Anne of Green Gables," "Huckleberry Finn," the Jalna books.... It was there I developed the life-long habit of reading, which is great company when one gets old and lives alone.

We had an old battery-run radio on which we could pick up static-laden news from the world outside. We heard of the birth of the Dionne quintuplets, and also most of the first broadcast of Orson Well's "War of the Worlds." I don't remember our listening to the radio much, so I presume the reception was poor or the batteries kept running down. We also had a hand-cranked gramophone with cylindrical records, and a small collection of records.

It was lucky we came from good peasant stock. I don't remember any illnesses except an occasional cold, for which we received vinegar and brown sugar which simmered on the stove. That tasted good and we didn't mind it, but had less fondness for the sulphur and molasses which Mother gave us for "spring fever," whether we needed it or not. It was amazing there were no serious accidents in the camp, considering the work was done with sharp axes and saws, heavy steel cables and lumbering horses. There was no-one with any knowledge of first aid closer than 12 miles away by water. If an accident had occurred in the bush, the logger could have lain there until he died from loss of blood because they usually worked alone.)

Mother finally persuaded Dad that the bush was no place for two daughters of school age. (I don't suppose she mentioned the loneliness of being the only woman in all that wilderness.) My sister and I loved it there, but looking back, I can see it was a very isolated life. Some of the people who lived in Ansty Arm, our nearest neighbours, became quite strange from living so far from others. Two of them became mental patients, and their daughter developed a stutter so bad that she could scarcely make herself understood all her adult life. Nell and I had some problems adjusting to life in the outside, but being kids, we soon adapted. Mother, on the other hand, had become quite shy and seldom left home after we moved out of the lumber camps.

I returned there once, many years later. Everything was so much smaller than I remembered: the beach had shrunk; the creek was not far from all that remained of the log cabin; the canyon over which we had swung was quite shallow. And the camp had disappeared: only the foundation logs of the cabin still lay there. Gone were the barn, the root cellar, the trails. Nature had reclaimed the site.

Living in the bush for eight of our early years undoubtedly left an indelible impression. We learned to be independent, to make our own amusements, to make do with what was at hand, to appreciate the beauty of the woods and the company of animals. And my sister and I developed a friendship that lasted until she died at the age of 85.


Barbara Wear sends the URL for a video of French children in a flash mob in a shopping centre performing Toreador

Don Henderson forwards this link to a video of an experiment in a vacuum to test Galileo's theory that objects of different weights fall at the same speed:

Gerrit deLeeuw sends this link to video of traffic in Montreal contending with an icy street - talk about rear-ending:

Judy Lee sends the URL for a site which shows creative art created by Stefano Furlani using rocks:

Shirley Conlon suggests this site for a video of a dancing traffic light in Germany which encourages pedestrians to wait for the green light:

Tom Telfer sends this link to a project by Richard Sidey, New Zealand, who has spent over a decade photographing the Polar regions and various remote areas of natural interest while working on expedition vehicles:

Tom also sends the URL for a video showing 7d Hologram technology in Dubai which ends with a user explaining how it works. I did not understand it, but the effects were fascinating:

In this TED talk, Jonathan Drori explains why the Millennium Seed Bank is storing billions of seeds from dwindling but essential plant species:

Canada celebrates its 150th birthday by making national parks free all year long:

This site describes some of the changes that technology will make in our lives in the next 10 years:

This video explains how the Time Banking system is organized to barter skills and services, in which each person who wishes to participate simply lists the things they can do for others and the things they need done, with no money changing hands:

America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.

- David Letterman

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