I kneel beside my bed, such that it will ever truly be mine, brought to my knees by staggering anxiety and devastating depression that is as insatiable and unpredictable as it is fierce. My thoughts float away from this sterling metropolis by the golden bay back to Arctic valleys filled with cold, crisp air that fills the lungs to capacity, invigorates the soul, and feeds the spirit, the seasonal darkness brightened by moonlight reflecting off of the freshly fallen snow, providing unexpected illumination and clarity of thought. 

I see the faces of my wife and children. It’s for them that I’m here. It’s for them that I suffer this sought-after and admittedly self-imposed exile to a city many flock to seeking new permanent opportunities, but which I simply desire to use for a short time to increase my family’s standing in the long term. Ah, the American Dream, where parents and spouses of abundant ambition but limited means temporarily deny themselves the absolutely essential parts of their lives to enhance the merely required. 

I am a person who needs people. And here I am, surrounded by over a million nameless faces to whom true connection is a near impossibility in the short time I have left here, a short time that is also far too long to be tenable. 

As I ponder my current state, the square’s clock marks the hour and sends out chimes that simultaneously encourage and warn. This too shall pass away. However, how quickly it seems to pass is uncertain. 

I raise my dulled, ivory colored coffee mug to my lips. Its insides are stained brown by my preferred solvents of the heart. The sweet, intoxicating smells of 80 proof spirits and charred American White Oak barrels fill my nostrils. The brown liquid flows smoothly through my mouth and into my soul, where I hope the elixir will numb me to the pervasive emptiness inside that can only truly be filled by my loved ones’ embraces. For a few hours, I drink not to forget, but to travel forward in time, to mortgage my current hours in this location through a fall into an imperfect and maddeningly disrupted slumber in an attempt to speed the slothily approaching hours away in order to reach those hours that will be spent with those whom I love more than anything else. 

I stare into space, hoping to steal a moment in time where I can bring their love to me, but the space is filled with the realties of my current surroundings instead of the fantasies of my desired state of being. The birds chirp, the ships filled with people and petroleum announce their arrivals and departures, the clock chimes, marking another 15 minutes that have slipped painfully and mercifully past. My body remains wracked with the electric current of anxiety that fills every corner of my flesh, denying me rest, and quickening my frenzied heart and frantic mind to breaking points. 

Now life simplifies, survival over enjoyment. The seemingly eternal amount of time left here sliced into theoretically manageable discrete pieces of time. Make it through tonight. Tomorrow, do your job. Don’t take the subway home, it goes too quickly. Walk home and steal an hour, maybe more if you catch the lights right or bring yourself to wander against the advice of your bleeding ulcers, ever present, ever threatening, and fueled by the very anxiety you wish to escape. Walk down streets filled with hundreds of other souls in various states of unknowable respite and/or suffering. Feel the glare of the diminutive females who guard your imposing frame and countenance with suspicion even though you’re likely the greatest ally they could find if trouble arose. Don’t be upset with them when they clutch their purses or cross the street to avoid you. Find it within yourself to politely and humanely dismiss the random panhandler who scrapes together the courage to approach you even though you feel for their plights. Walk away from the hustlers and con-men congregating on the same corners every day who call out to you as if you owe them a response simply for crossing their gazes. 

Accept the hypocrisy that you’re longing for human connection and those seeking the same are those you’re ignoring, even if you ignore them for valid reasons. Find the Inland ship and greet the graying, bespectacled publican who remembers your name and choice of drink. Find the next right choice. Do the next thing that needs doing. Repeat until finished. Alaska will call you home. Until then, you have work to do. 

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Family is rarely about blood. Family is about the experiences that shape us. Family is about the things we share, the good times, the bad, the pinnacles, the valleys.

It’s about, “Holy Shit, how did we make it through that?” And regrettably, sometimes it’s about, “You were there and now you’re not and I don’t know how to talk about this with anyone else.”

The tie of shared experience is there and it binds mightily.

The person who stands by me in the fire and startes down the same demons caught in my gaze is forever my brother. My sister. My family. For what we lack in blood, were share in experience. What we lack in genetics, we share in scars, both seen and unseen. 

Nothing can shake our shared pasts or unlink our shared future. For those that bleed with me, that hurt with me, that struggle with me either victorious or in defeat will forever be called my family, my kin, those who I will stand with in all struggles, those that I will defend against all enemies, even if I share the blood of those enemies. 

Faithful forever. Born together in the crucible of a common human struggle. I will stand together with you, my brother, my sister, until the end of our watch, until the end of time. 

I am my Father’s son. I am cut from the same stone. As a child, I longed to be like him. Today, I know I am. I have his build, if slightly larger. I have his shoulders, wide and firm as steel beams. I have his legs, thick and powerful as oaks. I have his will, strong as iron, unbending, and firm. I have his heart, strong and loving.

I am my Father’s son. I have his back, which sometimes betrays me. I have his mind, overactive and consumed with all the challenges of the moment and those yet to come. I have his sleep, short, shallow, and broken. I have his infinite desire to learn, and to apply that knowledge to help others. I also have his infinite frustration at a finite ability to right the wrongs I see in the world.

My Father’s work is finished. His mile markers on our family’s path stand tall for all to see, and their final number has been decided.

I am my Father’s son. I was cut from the same stone, but I have been shaped by my own fires, weathered by my own rains, and polished by my own winds. All of his attributes are within me, though they have manifested themselves differently and our shapes have diverged. My work is ongoing. My mile markers on our family’s path stand tall for all to see, and their final number is yet to be decided.

I am my Father’s son and now I am Father to a son. He is cut from the same stone, but yet to be shaped by the forces of his journey. He has my stubbornness, my ease of frustration, my inherent desire to attack all problems with force of will first. He has my loving heart and my deep need to feel love in return. Like me, he is loud, and boisterous, and friendly to all he meets. He has my outsized personality in his small, but growing body.

I am Father to a son. He is my hope for the future. He is our path forward, even if the path is yet uncharted and uncleared. I am confident that his aim will be true, and our destination fruitful. He is just beginning to place mile markers on our family’s path. I have no doubt that they will stand tall for all to see and will be many in number, for he is his Father’s son.

I took my kids on a 10-day, 4,300-mile road trip to a CFL preseason game. What follows is an account of our travels.

Day 1: Anchorage, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

The alarm went off at midnight. My wife, being the angel she is, helped get the kids into the car even though she had to be at work early the next morning. The kids’ eyes were still nearly shut with sleep as we pulled out of the driveway and headed for points east…really east. I was giving my wife a break and taking the kids on a 10-day, 4,300-mile road trip from our home in Anchorage, Alaska to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. At our destination would be the northernmost professional football game ever played. The Edmonton Eskimos were taking on my favorite CFL team, the Saskatchewan RoughRiders at the newly christened SMS Equipment Stadium at Shell Place.

Today, Day 1, started with us pulling out of the driveway and ended with us making Whitehorse, capital of Yukon Territory. Everything went well for about two and a half hours. That’s when the kids started throwing up. Every parent knows that feeling of dread. Is this a quick thing that will be over in a couple of hours or is this a doctor’s visit in the making? I decided to press on, closely monitoring food and water intake (and outpour). All quieted down and we made the border around 8am, seeing a few moose and a wolf along the way.

Canadian customs wasn’t an issue but the Canadian roads were. After we left Beaver Creek, Yukon we were in for about 100 kilometers of dirt road construction areas with speed limits of 50 km/h (30mph). Once the last construction area ended I was elated until finding out the end of the construction wasn’t the end of the terrible roads. The roads were bad in spots and worse most everywhere else. Then, I was rewarded with a sight that is beyond description. I say that knowing what I’m about to describe to you won’t do justice to the sight itself, but I’ll do my best. As we pulled into Destruction Bay, the scenery opened up to my left and a massive glacier-blue lake, Kluane Lake, appeared. The semi-arid bulbous mountains of alternating green and brown across the water contrasted with the steep slopes to my right. The only way I can describe this visage is I imagine this is what it would look like if you crossed the Columbia River Gorge with Lake Tahoe. The road crossed massive culverts of bone-dry arroyos lined with huge boulders, a testament to the raging torrents that tear through these steep drainages during spring breakup and summer rain storms. The northern slopes of the mountains still bore evidence of winter in the form of snowpack in the deep, vertical gouges in the mountain faces.

At the far end of the lake, the landscape changed yet again, the Columbia River Gorge giving way to the Bonneville Salt Flats. As we rounded a steep right bend, the delta of the Sims River appeared in a massive, flat field of bright white sediment carried down from the mountains and deposited in a cove of the lake. Four dust devils of various sizes whipped across the silt and as we reached the other side of the delta, the white sediment mixed with the glacial blue water to provide a striking two tone water column, a line of deep, glacial blue above a light, powder blue. I was awestruck by the whole scene and it made the past miles of motoring misery seem a distant memory.

I was functioning (if you want to call it that) on 5 hours of sleep and had our 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son under my care. They had been stuck in the back of a Chevy Tahoe for 12-ish hours. At Haines Junction I pled with them to give me two more hours and we’d find a playground. Luckily, we did just that, pulling into Whitehorse and finding a great playground and park area on the banks of the Yukon River.

I’ve been fascinated with the mighty Yukon since I was a kid and working on the river from time-to-time hasn’t quelled those feelings at all. If anything, the experience has given me a deepened respect for this massive, vital waterway that simultaneously holds destructive forces and provides sustenance to thousands. This day, the river was calm, flowing gently toward Emmonak, some 2,000 river miles away.

The kids and I found supper at Boston’s, a Canadian pizza chain. My well-deserved 32oz of Yukon Brewing Yukon Gold Pale Ale went down smooth as a whistle. After supper, we went back to the hotel and crashed. Even my son, known for his maddening inability to sleep, found deep slumber quickly and as I briefly watched the two of them, I was reminded that the real reason for this whole madcap adventure wasn’t some football game another 1,400 miles away. It was spending quality time with my kids. Lord knows some day soon I’ll look back and wish I’d had more days like this.
Day 2: Whitehorse, Yukon to Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park.

I woke several times during the night because I’m a father and I was in a strange hotel room with my kids. I still slept like a rock though and I finally woke them at 7am to get on the road by 8. We were spending this night at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park in British Columbia and we had to get going in order to get the tent set up and get some swim time in before bed. We made decent time but took more stretch breaks to compensate for the brutal first day. We stopped at The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake where 11 years prior I had stopped in the middle of the night and hung my Hawaii “KJNBOY” license plate, doubtlessly leaving many a passerby to wonder about the combination of Hawaii and KJNBOY (or so I hope). The plate was impossible to locate among the thousands of others in the famous tourist attraction but I saw plenty of interesting signs and the kids ran up and down the hills. We pulled into Liard around 4pm after driving through mountainous green country laced with winding, bright gray rivers. Multiple Bison and a Black Bear stood at the side of the road along the way.

We booked into the park and set up our humble abode for the night: a large blue tent from Sam’s Club. At 9’x12′ and 7′ tall, it was the Taj Mahal of tents but with two kids, I wanted room to move around in case we got rained in. Tent setup went nicely and we made our way down to the springs via a 1/2-mile Boardwalk that winds through a marsh. The springs have two changing rooms, restrooms, and two natural pools for swimming. The upper pool is akin to something one would use for crawfish. It was hot and borderline unbearable for adults. Kids? Not a chance. We ended up in the lower pool where we swam for a couple of hours, the warm, mineral-laden water melting the miles away. After our swim, we retired to our quaint accommodations and cooked supper (polish sausages and marshmallows) over an open fire, burning charcoal and some logs of fine, seasoned firewood I had purchased at a lodge along the way. I sent the kids to bed and sat beside the fire sipping a Yukon Brewing Secret Service Imperial IPA.
Day 3: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park to Dawson Creek, British Columbia.

It’s difficult to say when Day 2 ended and Day 3 began. After many trips to the car to get unforeseen essentials needed to get the kids to bed, I finally knocked out around 11pm. At midnight I was startled awake by the sound of a large wild animal stomping the ground and huffing. In my dazed state, I was certain that it was a black bear. They are prevalent in the area and the dipshit in the campsite next to us had left his gas grill and food lockers outside. He had a motor home to shield him. We had fabric. After lying as still as possible trying to discern where the sound was coming from, I got up and unzipped a flap on the tent. Five feet away stood a bison, horns and all. How he didn’t hit one of our tent’s guy lines, I’ll never know. As soon as he moved on, I took down the rain awning and shut the front flap of the tent as quickly and quietly as I could. I then laid there with a combination of excitement from the bison encounter, exhaustion from a lack of sleep, and a touch of fear that a bear could follow our bison friend.

Almost immediately, it began to rain. Now I was listening intently to every sound, ridiculously wondering if every slug of rain falling from the tent’s rain flap was a bear pawing at our tent. My mind switched on to full strength, formulating plans and contingencies for what would need to be done in the morning to take down and stow wet gear and figure out when I would have the chance to air it out so it didn’t mold and stink when we made our way back to Liard 5 days later. I tossed and turned until 2am when mercifully, I fell asleep.

I awoke shivering at 4am. A cold front had moved in with the rain and the temperature had fallen to the low 40’s. I tried to spread my blankets over the kids, who were in their sleeping bags (rated to be “comfortable” down to +50F). I fought the good fight until 6am when I was too cold and tired to sleep so I threw my blankets over the kids and proceeded to start packing everything, reorganizing things for more efficient “operations” down the road. I woke the kids, got them dressed, and in the car. When I asked them if they had gotten cold during the night my daughter simply said, “Big Cold”.

We were on the road early and it became readily apparent that I was the kind of tired that gets people killed. We pulled over for some gas at the Northern Rockies Lodge and I loaded up on all the caffeine I could get my hands on, praying I could just make it to Dawson Creek. Pulling over for a nap wasn’t going to work with the youngins in the back and it would only make a long driving day longer…though I had no idea how long.

Near Muncho Lake the road started to get extremely windy and had significant grade changes. We were getting into logging country and were also seeing the first signs of the Northern B.C. energy industry so 18-wheeler traffic picked up significantly, slowing speeds to 30mph on the many steep inclines. When it became apparent that powering through wasn’t going to work, I worked in some play stops for the kids, which doubled as stretch breaks for me, helping me to refocus on the road. We stopped at Summit Lake for a quick side hike and again at Mile 80 rest stop to turn the kids loose on a random, but much needed, playground.

We reached Fort St. John and stopped at the first store we saw for things that were either needed for camping (more blankets) or had somehow been forgotten (lighter and a hammer for driving stakes). I started to get that excited feeling one gets when the end of a long day on the road is almost done. After all, Fort St. John, which bills itself as “The Energetic City” (in stark contrast to my state of mind at that point) is only 45 miles from Dawson Creek. But a choked two-lane stretch of highway bearing LNG trucks and 10% grades turned 45 miles into 90 minutes. What was supposed to have been a long, but manageable 8-hour driving day had turned into 12. As we pulled into the hotel parking lot, my son broke down in tears and fell asleep on a chair in the lobby as I was checking in. Father of The Year right here, y’all.
Day 4: Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park, Lac la Biche, Alberta

A hot shower and a good night’s sleep did everyone a lot of good and we started Day 4 of our trek, (also the longest driving day for a couple of days), bright-eyed. The first half of the drive was simply magnificent. We crossed into western Alberta and the landscape opened up to reveal rolling green and yellow farmland bisected by a straight, flat ribbon of asphalt. I tuned into my choice of two radio stations, an indescribable luxury after three days of mostly radio silence. The radio was playing just loudly enough to be ignored and the kids watched cartoons quietly in the back. As we ate up the miles through a persistent soft drizzle, I had finally found some peace, coincidentally enough in the place known as “The Peace River Country”.

A gas stop in Rycroft yielded an interesting exchange. When the gentleman behind the counter asked our destination he grimaced when I said bluntly, “Fort McMurray”. It wasn’t the first time someone had this sort of reaction when I mentioned the locale. It made me wonder if these people knew something I didn’t or if they were having a similar reaction as an American would have if someone said they were headed to say, Detroit. Maybe they were unfairly judging a place they had never seen based on news reports detailing the oil sands slowdown and associated unemployment spike. I take such news with a grain of salt because I’ve lived my whole life in oil-producing regions. This is the grand bargain you make when you tie your fortunes to an energy commodity. Whether it’s West Texas or Northern Alberta, the story is the same.

The second half of the day’s drive saw us passing through some beautiful country including the Smoky River Valley and by Lesser Slave Lake, a gorgeous, white-capped body of water accompanied by a resort town of similar name.

We pulled into Lac la Biche and checked into a cabin on the lakeshore at Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park. It was a wonderful thing to have a yard for the kids to run around in and a grill on which to cook supper. This “cabin” had electricity, water, a full kitchen, a toilet, even ceiling fans! Not bad for $120/night during the summer. I got the tent dried out, drank a couple of beers, and played in the yard with the kids. It was so good, I wish I had booked a week in the cabin instead of a single night.

As the kids lay in their sleeping bags on the bunk beds, I sat in my camping chair on the cabin’s porch. Looking out at a pelican on the lake, I contemplated the last few days and the ones to come. Tomorrow was our last outbound day. For all the early “troubles” we had run into, the trip was turning out to be great fun and was flying by.
Day 5: Lac la Biche, Alberta to Fort McMurray, Alberta

We left our comfortable cabin early on game day and headed north on Alberta Highway 63. As we got a few miles up the road I saw an amazing sight: a 4-lane divided highway. It was the first such road I’d seen since we were just outside of Anchorage. The problem was, the other two lanes were still under construction. We stopped in Wandering River, last gas and services for 200km. As we waited for the kids’ breakfast at an A&W, I talked with a very nice older woman wearing an oilfield services jacket. She told us her husband was from Saskatchewan and a huge Riders fan. She said, “The Riders don’t always win, but they always play hard.” This was a weird sentiment to hear about a team that won the Grey Cup two years ago. I’m certain no Saints fan said such things in 2011. We were still too busy celebrating a championship to worry about moral victories.

We got on the road and it quickly became apparent why the four lane highway was being constructed. A steady stream of 18-wheelers transited both north and south, some with oversized loads. A number of crosses lined the road and signs asked “Got Tunnel Vision? Pull Over.” Signs for rest areas said “Take A Break!” There were also quite a few off-lane “safety rest areas”. One sign pled with drivers to “Help Make A Safer AB-63 and AB-881.” It was clear that any slow down in the oil sands production at Fort McMurray hadn’t hurt the trucking business, or if it had, it had brought the levels down to a somewhat reasonable level. We passed a number of camps, equipment storage areas, side roads leading to various energy projects, and “The Sand Tiger Lodge” whose sign naturally had a shark on it.

Eventually, the Government of Alberta saw fit to let us drive on the divided portion of the highway for awhile and good God was it glorious! The straight, flat, fast road with no oncoming traffic was a blessing after days of passing Motorhomes on two-lane roads. We got to Fort McMurray around 1pm and pulling into town, the well-publicized housing shortage was front and center with a couple of roadside lots choked with travel trailers crammed into every inch of available space. We headed to a store to get a new windshield wiper since the driver’s side wiper had been streaking since Anchorage. When we stepped out of the car I noticed a strange look about things. Maybe it was the strong winds throwing dust into the air but everything looked like it was filmed the same way as the “Friday Night Lights” movie. It was almost like I was viewing everything through a filter. In the store, it was clearly a different crowd from what we had seen during the trip. In addition to a few women in abayas it was dye-jobs, flat bills, and lots of ink. I’m not judging, I’ve got plenty of ink and can be a pretty rough-looking character myself. It was just a stark change from what we had seen elsewhere along the road. That being said, it was a completely normal scene for a working-class town and everyone was incredibly nice and very welcoming. Based on my very limited interactions there, I would say any negative reputation the town has is ill-deserved. Perhaps it was more applicable to the Fort McMurray of 10 years ago but now it appears to be a very family-oriented, safe community and one that I’m glad we visited.

We went down to Wood Buffalo Brewing for lunch. The place was packed with Eskimos and Riders fans. We started talking with a couple named Brian and Linda who were sporting Eskimos gear. Linda asked who I was rooting for and when I said “Riders” she said, “That’s ok, my dad was Riders.” I said, “He was a Riders fan?” She said, “No, he played for the Riders in the 30’s and won a Grey Cup!” I also got to speak with Spike, the brewery’s Head Brewer. He was a great guy and we talked beer for a minute or two.

We checked into our hotel and caught the bus to the game at 6. The City busses were free to people who showed their game tickets and brought a canned good for the local food bank. (We brought baked beans if you must know.) Linda and Brian just so happened to be on our bus. As the bus picked up Riders fans, the smack talk started. Brian asked a Riders fan where he was from, the Riders fan said “Prince George, B.C.” Brian said, “Yeah, we folks in Alberta keep wondering how the hell that happens.” A nuanced accusation of bandwaggoneering had just flown. The Riders fan shot back that over 50 percent of tickets to tonight’s game had been purchased by Riders fans. Brian said that Riders fans were fond of saying such things. “47,000 people in Commonwealth Stadium with 27,000 season ticket holders and Riders fans always say they’re over 50 percent of the crowd!” Riders fan replied, “Yeah, that must be really embarrassing for you, eh?!”

It was good that this well-mannered Canadian smack talk was going on because the traffic through downtown was slow even though no private cars were being allowed onto MacDonald Island where the stadium is located. At any rate, the ride wasn’t that long and the bus let us off in front of the pregame “Rock The Lot” event. We meandered over to a face painting tent because my only goal was to ply the kids with enough fun pregame activities that they would let me watch the game itself. We eventually made our way into the stadium and even though the layout was strange, it worked for the most part. The end zone bleachers make up the deep foul ground on the 3rd base side of the adjacent baseball stadium. To get to the bleachers, you have to walk down to and across the baseball field which had a protective mat lain over it.

Concession tents and portapotties were setup in the outfield. No indoor plumbing for the plebes in the cheap seats! To be fair, the line for the facilities wasn’t unbearable at all so the system worked. We took our seats 20 minutes prior to the 8pm kickoff and watched the pregame festivities. From our end zone seats, the stadium was visually appealing and owing to its capacity of only 15,000, felt very intimate.

This is where I should mention a terrible habit that my son has. When he watches a game (such that he does) he calls a team by its jersey color. So tonight, Edmonton was “The White Guys” and Saskatchewan was “The Green Guys”. Well, being the road team for this game, Saskatchewan ran out of a black inflated helmet bearing the CFL logo. Therefore, my beloved son, who like most 3-year olds doesn’t posses volume control, kept loudly asking, “When are the black guys coming out to play?” Yeah. Thanks for that buddy.

The national anthem was a sight to see. The flag crew let the giant Canadian flag drag on the ground. This elicited some visible cringes and audible groans from the fans seated around me. The RCMP Honor Guard marched off the field and mistakenly turned different directions (they had a good laugh about it afterward). The game finally kicked off and after every play my son grabbed me by the coat, shaking me and repeating whatever word the PA announcer had said last.

“RIIIIDDDDEEEERRRS!” “DDDDOOOOOWWWWWNNNNN!” “PPPPLLLLLAAAAAYYYYY!”

He was clearly into it…until five minutes left in the first quarter when he first asked when we were going to leave. My daughter followed suit soon and often thereafter. The assault relented slightly when they caught two Edmonton Eskimos footballs thrown into the crowd during one of the many commercial breaks. The game was a sloppy affair, with penalty flags flying after almost every play. The kids were restless so I was getting to see every second or third play, and those plays invariably involved a penalty or multiple penalties. At the end of a play involving four thrown flags on three penalties, the very nice French-speaking gentleman behind me said with exasperation, “Un! Deux! Trois! Quatre!”

Then as the sun went down, the temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and the kids started shivering. I had made a tactical mistake, taking their light coats to the game instead of their heavy ones. After all, it had been 70 degrees earlier in the day. At halftime I said, “Screw it. These kids have been through a lot. I’m not going to make them sit through another half just for me.”

Yes, I drove 2,200 miles to see one half of a sloppy, penalty-laden preseason game. But by now you know that this trip was far more about the journey than the destination. We caught a bus back to our hotel, cooked supper in the microwave, and slept like logs. Now we just had to make the 2,150-mile trip home.
Day 6: Fort McMurray, Alberta to Dawson Creek, B.C.

The trip back south was on a Sunday and it seemed that truckers observe the Sabbath because 18-wheeler traffic was at a minimum on AB-63. It was quite a pleasant drive. It was the first time I stopped converting kilometers to miles in my head to gauge time, and while this may sound silly, it took a lot of stress out of driving. I also figured out that it was a good idea to have the kids “get some energy out” at every gas stop. They raced back and forth across the sides of gas station parking lots, smiling and laughing. It made a big difference in their willingness to sit in the car between gas stops.

As we made our way back across the prairie, this time in the sunshine, the landscape drew me in once again and the miles (or kilometers) ticked by with ease. We stopped for fuel at the same gas station in Rycroft, Alberta. I wanted to tell the guy behind the counter that he should visit Fort McMurray, that it was a nice town with really good people. Alas, he wasn’t there.

As we neared the B.C. border (and Dawson Creek), a line of storms stalled against a ridge line, dumping obscene amounts of rain onto the road, and slowing our progress. Given that tomorrow’s drive would be the return trip of our ill-fated 12-hour march that ended with my son crying himself to sleep in a hotel lobby armchair, I was hoping this wasn’t an omen of things to come.
Day 7: Dawson Creek, B.C. to Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, B.C.

The day started with a bit of trepidation to be honest. The kids were in no hurry to get back in the car and I was itching to get moving in case the going was slow. It turns out my fears were misplaced. While there were some slowdowns early on and intermittent rain throughout, the last half of the day’s drive was simply amazing with nearly empty roads through some of North America’s most striking scenery. Bald, craggy gray stone mountains rose above alpine streams flowing briskly over their rocky beds on account of the rain. We saw a deer, a lynx, a sheep, a bison, and a few bears. All said and told, it was an 8-hour day…just what it should’ve been.

We got to the springs with enough time left in the evening to make camp, take a swim in the springs, and cook supper over a campfire. The kids were exhausted and went straight to bed after supper. I grabbed a Yukon Beer Up The Creek Birch Sap Ale and sat in front of the campfire.

There really is nothing like sitting by a campfire. It’s soothing on a very primal level. While the driving had gone well, there were a few tiffs throughout the day (and evening) that told me the kids were just about done with this trip and I couldn’t blame them. I was starting to get pretty tired too. The fire helped settle my mind. The soft roar, crackles, and pops played the perfect soundtrack for the dancing orange flames’ waltz with the red and gray coals. It was time to relax. Tomorrow was a day with no driving. I can’t say I wasn’t happy about it. As dark clouds rolled in and a cool breeze softly blew, the woods quieted except for the sound of the fire, the wind through the trees, and a couple of songbirds. I relaxed into my camping chair, stared at the fire, and zoned out. Eventually the rains came and I retired to my spot on the air mattress. The kids were snuggled down into their sleeping bags and no fewer than 5 blankets. As a slug of water fell from the rain flap and hit the tent, I jumped, then smiled at my conditioned response from the previous night we’d spent in a tent.
Day 8: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, B.C.

On this fine day we woke whenever it was that our internal clocks told us to. After a solid week of hard driving, we had nowhere to be today but here. It was a fine, fine feeling. I made the kids a breakfast of Nutella and jelly sandwiches, fruit pouches, and juice boxes. As they munched happily at the picnic table, I got swimming stuff together so that we could “take the waters” on this beautiful, sunny morning. We made our way down to the springs and immersed ourselves in the water. We played on logs floating in the water, the kids climbed on trees that had fallen across the springs, and we explored shallow, narrow offshoots where groundwater infiltration from the previous night’s rain dropped the water’s temperature to “brisk” levels. It was great to watch our daughter develop confidence throughout the day as she became more and more comfortable walking across the fallen trees in order to jump into the springs.

After three hours we got dressed and headed back to the tent, but first a stop at the park’s playground. Apparently, while the water had tired me out, the kids had no such problem. After 45 minutes, we went back to the tent and after the kids ate lunch, we laid down for what turned out to be a three-hour nap.

I finally woke them up and marched them back down to the springs (not that they needed a lot of coaxing). After four more hours in the water, we decided it was time for supper. I had to drag myself down the half-mile Boardwalk to get back to the tent but it was a wonderful feeling. In addition to our usual fare of hot dogs and marshmallows, I made some carrots and potatoes in garlic butter. None was wasted.

For one last time this trip I sat in front of the fire, drinking Spike’s gift beers from Wood Buffalo Brewing. Tomorrow was the second to last day of our trip and it was time to sleep. Even though it was warm out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, I threw the extra blankets we had purchased over the kids, just in case.
Day 9: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, B.C. to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Overnight temperatures dropped into the 30’s. Many times throughout the night I pulled the extra blankets over the kids to make sure they were warm enough. After shivering for a few hours, I got up at 6, threw my blankets over the kids, and began getting everything together for our drive to Whitehorse. When I took the tent down, the inside of the rain flap was wet with condensation from our warm breath.

I briefly considered taking the kids to the springs for a quick warmup swim before the drive but then I remembered with these two, there was no such thing as a “quick swim” and any attempt to force one would likely be met with gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, and perhaps even mutiny. The bottom line was we needed to get to Whitehorse early enough to get a good night’s rest before our 14-hour cannonball run in to Anchorage the next day. However, this was still vacation so we worked some fun things into the day.

The road was nearly clear of vehicles for the first miles of the day, probably due to our early start. We saw multiple bears along the way including a brown bear and a black bear sow with two cubs. Then, I made the first bonehead driving move of the trip. Every once in awhile there would be a random traffic light in the middle of nowhere. Except for one in Alberta that was handily equipped with explanatory signage and a timer counting down the wait time, these meant you were supposed to stop and wait for a pilot car. That wasn’t the case here and as I stepped out of the car to stretch, the group of German motorcyclists I had passed a few miles back yelled “green” and as I jumped in and started forward, they quickly sped past. When I again passed them a few miles afterward, the lead rider was visibly perturbed and gave me a sarcastic “go around” wave. I gave him an apologetic wave and was truly embarrassed about the incident at the light. That being said, I was tired, cranky, and not in the mood for anybody’s shit. I’ve learned that I can’t yell out my thoughts during bouts of road rage anymore because little ears are listening. However, there was an under-my-breath muttering of something to effect of “Fuck you, fucking ‘Dieter’. Ain’t nobody told you that you had to pass me at that light any Goddamn how. You can suck my wiener schnitzel, ass.” Now understand, I harbor no ill feelings toward Germany or Germans. A wonderful German couple lent us a striker our first night at Liard. We spoke with many wonderful German tourists throughout the trip. Hell, my wife and I have been to Germany and everyone was wonderful to us. I just didn’t need Mr. Passive-Aggressive giving me a sarcastic “go around” signal because he wanted to putt along. It’s not like I could get away with going 80kph in an unlimited speed zone on the Autobahn, now could I?

At Watson Lake we stopped and ran through the Signpost Forest again. It was a welcome open space where the kids could run around and I could “chase” them while looking at the signs from around the world, even from such exotic locations as Lake Charles, Louisiana!

After pulling into Whitehorse and checking into the hotel, we went down to the river where the kids played at the playground and threw rocks into the Yukon River. Given my abbreviated night of shivering sleep, I was pretty exhausted and all too happy to turn them loose for a bit. It was starting to sink in that our Daddy-Kids time was quickly coming to a close and while we were all excited to get home, we’d had a truly amazing time together. As they threw pebbles into the water I sat on a nearby bench, happily watching them enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures.

Perhaps it was the lack of sleep or the cumulative tiredness from the trip as a whole but this pure and simple moment watching our kids simply be kids made me strangely sentimental and reflective. This was the kind of road trip I had always wanted to do with my Dad but he never had, or perhaps had never made, the time to do it. We grew up middle class by the grace of overtime and my Dad ingratiated himself to that master as much as possible. For years he worked twelve 12-hour days every two weeks, taking every other weekend off only to spend those days, and often nights, working on the house. I don’t resent him for this. I know what his motivations were and can understand now that his priorities as a father and mine are different. He wanted a home large enough for friends and family to visit and nice enough for everyone to be comfortable, if not impressed.

As a man with no higher education, achieving that goal meant working as much as possible. Conversely, I wanted a home that was comfortable enough for my wife and kids, and to put aside enough time and money to do things with the kids while they were young. My parents chose over and over again to mortgage their present for the future and in the end, that future never came. This isn’t to say that they made the wrong choice. I understand why they did what they did. It’s just that my wife and I chose differently, valuing a comfortable home over an impressive one and time with the kids now over the possibility of time with them and their kids later. This isn’t to say I’ve chosen better, only differently, and so far, I’m happy with the results of this choice.

The kids are still quite young, but in that moment by the river I hoped they would grow to hold at least one memory from this trip near to their hearts and always remember how much I enjoyed spending this time with them.
Day 10: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Anchorage, Alaska

At 5:45 I told the kids it was time to wake up. They heard me but were slow to stir. Then I said, “It’s go home day!” and they jumped out of bed. The last two days I had spoken with them multiple times about the length of this drive in order to prepare them. I had offered them the option of stopping for the night in the small town of Tok, about 8 or 9 hours away. We had stayed there on previous trips and knew it well. They had repeatedly told me that they wanted to go home, so go home we would.

We lit out of Whitehorse by 6:30, with a full tank of gas and the kids’ breakfast in a McDonald’s bag. We made great time to the first stop in Haines Junction. When the kids went to “get their energy out”, my son was reticent to run. He was tired and just not in the mood. A very nice, (and not unattractive), woman who managed the small store next to the gas station came out and challenged my son to a race, a challenge which he wholeheartedly accepted. Even at 3, it appears he’s willing to do his best to impress a pretty girl. As they ran back from the far side of the parking lot she very obviously let him win and said that both kids had earned a prize. She took them into the store and gave them Otter Pops, the childhood equivalent of gold.

As we motored on toward the border, we came back to Kluane Lake and it was apparent that the beauty we observed on our way east had not diminished as it was still very much apparent on our way west. However, approaching from the west in the still-rising sunlight, the lake took on a different look, beautiful as ever, but different. The water was a deeper blue, the mountains a different shade, the white Sims River delta now a deep brown. As we approached the dreaded construction zones in the last 100km before the border, it was apparent that the crews had made great progress in the week we had been gone and only two stops for pilot cars remained. The road, being in better condition, made for faster going. This isn’t to say there weren’t bumpy spots and a couple of times our Tahoe briefly took to the air courtesy of frost heaves that lined up a little too closely to the road’s alignment, rendering them invisible until it was too late. The kids found this to be great fun though I was less than impressed with my inability to identify these road hazards at what might have been a slightly-higher-than-recommended rate of speed.

Eventually, we crossed the border and back into the U.S. I know we were only gone for 10 days and it was in what is probably the most U.S.-like country that isn’t the U.S. itself, but it was still good to be home. I’ve only been abroad six times but I’ve found that coming back to your home country is a lot like coming home to the spouse whose beauty you inadvertently take for granted on a day-to-day basis but whose visage is indescribably sweet after time away.

I wish I could say that the rest of the trip went smoothly but I was quickly reminded that the Tok Cut Off Highway as currently constructed is a curvy and frost heave laden ribbon of feces and the Glenn Highway between Glennallen and Palmer stretches through the Matanuska Valley, passing by Matanuska Glacier itself and negotiating the tight turns and steep grades one should expect to find on a roadway constructed through a deep gouge in the earth carved meticulously over time by ice and water.

We eventually passed through Palmer and proceeded onto the freeway leading from the communities of Palmer and Wasilla to Anchorage. I breathed an audible sigh of relief to be in intimately familiar territory on an easily-negotiated roadway where the idea of 70mph didn’t get you branded as an imbecile with a death wish. The names on the exits were welcoming: Peters Creek, Birchwood, Chugiak, Eagle River…they were leading us homeward.

We stopped on the way home to wash the Tahoe. After all, it is my wife’s car and our trusty steed had earned as much after 4,300 miles of problem free motoring. Upon pulling into the driveway, the kids embraced my wife with a fervor unknown to any situation not involving children embracing their mother after a significant amount of time away. It was beautiful, and a fitting end to our trip.

So what, you may ask, did I learn on this trip?

1) Motorhomes are the devil. If you are reading this and you own a motorhome, I would like to bestow a special blessing upon you. Please rise, place your right hand on your heart, and your left hand on your crotch. It is my sincere hope that each and every one of you, male and/or female become so enormously well endowed that you can literally go fornicate with yourselves. Your warm and comfy quarters make for terrible driving conditions for everyone else. If you’re driving so slowly that fully-loaded 18-wheelers are passing you on steep inclines, then you are the turd in the punch bowl.

2) Do challenging things with your kids. This trip was fun, but it wasn’t easy either for me, or the kids. That’s ok. Show them that you can have fun through challenging tasks. Many things in life are challenging, that doesn’t mean they have to be drudgery.

3) Go places with them you’ve never been. There is a special kind of relationship built when people experience new places and things together. Share that experience with your kids. It’s a good thing to expose them to different cultures, no matter how nuanced those differences may be. It’s also good to share in this discovery, as it builds memories for a lifetime. Whenever they recount their travels throughout their lives, they will be instantly reminded that they saw these things with you and hopefully it will inspire them to go on their own journeys of discovery.

4) Relish the time you have with them. My kids are 6 and 3. I’m keenly aware that their childhood is fleeting and that someday the idea of us taking off on this kind of adventure will be daunting. They will potentially have college and families of their own to look after. They will be adults with adult problems. I’m doing my best to enjoy them while they are young. I’m as guilty as anyone of spending too much time on my phone, paying attention to the day’s events when I should be paying attention to the things that truly matter…but I’m working on it.

5) Men, don’t be afraid to be a dad. Give your wife a break. Take your kids somewhere by yourself. It’ll give you new confidence in your ability to be a parent. So often in our culture, the father is portrayed as the bumbling idiot, barely able to fend for himself, much less act competently as a parent without the constant guidance of his all-knowing female counterpart. We are important figures in our kids’ lives and we are capable of not only looking after them but doing cool things with them. Yes, I missed my wife and the experience made me appreciate her more, but I am a more confident and competent parent now than I was before the trip.

6) Sports is a great excuse to do cool things that are completely unrelated to sports. Yes, we went to a football game. It wasn’t in the top-5 of the memorable things we did on this trip…but without that event, we probably wouldn’t have ever gone to Fort McMurray. I wouldn’t have met Spike, the Brewer; Linda and Brian, the Eskimos Fans; the wonderful silver-haired gentleman who is on the Board of directors for the Edmonton Eskimos; or the nice lady behind the counter at the liquor store next to Wal-Mart. Sports are a great reason to talk to your loved ones and take them new places. Sports cross generational lines like nothing else in our culture. Use them to your advantage.

Lastly, Happy Father’s Day everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful day. And for those wondering, yes, I’m already planning next year’s trip.

Lighting out for parts north
Just my youngins in tow

If they lose me on the trail
Know this is how I wanted to go

They need to see the world
To know how big is small

I stand raging against the night
But even the mightiest warriors fall

This hole in my heart beats wildly
And my soul is leaking out

I hope that I’ll find peace soon
But right now I have my doubts

Double Maker’s Neat
Before I take my seat
Mr. Airport Bartender Man

I’m sitting here with friends
I’ll never see again
As we travel far across the land

And soon you’ll find me
In seat 33C
With a well-earned 1,000-yard stare

I’ll be stoic and still
With time to fill
As I fly in a tube through the air

You know I tried not to cry
When I kissed the kids goodbye
But them and their Momma are all that I love

But duty calls
So it’s balls to the wall
And you’ll find me far up above

When my wanderlust subsides
And the Chugach fills my eyes
You know I’m back in this Greatest of Lands

So Double Maker’s Neat
Before I take my seat
Mr. Airport Bartender Man

Today is Fathers Day.  In the past couple of years since my Dad passed away I’ve used this day as a bit of a mourning device.  The freshness of that loss competed with the joy of spending the day with my wife and children.  Today was the first Fathers Day in 3 years that felt, for lack of a better term, “normal”.  Today was a great day.  I got to drive through some of the most scenic country on Earth with my wife and our children.  Even with the usual battles that accompany having two children and a dog cooped up in a car for 5 hours, it was a gold star day.  That comfort of finally having a Fathers Day that didn’t feel somewhat empty and lacking lead me to fire up the computer tonight with the express purpose of sharing some stories about the men that came before me because, quite frankly, they’re hilarious.  My dad, his dad, and his uncles, were all REALLY funny guys who have lead amazingly interesting lives and so, with that, a couple of stories.  I feel obligated to tell these stories in part because it helps the memories of these fine men live on in the minds of others.  It’s also partly because they’re wildly entertaining and I really enjoy telling them.  These are all true stories told to me by the men that lived them.  Any embellishment was added by them when they recounted these events for me.

“Glenn, Johnny, and One Big Sledgehammer”

My Dad (Glenn) and his father-in-law (Johnny) always had a relationship that was “strained” to say the least.  Johnny was not a nice man.  He wasn’t patient, wasn’t particularly caring, drank too much (even by my standards), and was generally a mean, old son of a bitch.  When my Dad first married my Mom, a new bridge was being built over the Atchafalaya River connecting the towns of Berwick and Morgan City, Louisiana.  Highway 90 was being upgraded to provide a better road between New Orleans and Lafayette via Houma, Thibodaux, and Morgan City.  Economic opportunities in our hometown weren’t what one would call “abundant” and so when a huge project like this came around, both Glenn and Johnny signed right up.  Of course, they also got put on the same crew, which lead to some strife.  One day, Glenn and Johnny were tasked with driving some spikes into a form.  The form was about 10-15 feet above the ground and Glenn had to straddle a gap in the form in order to get himself in position to drive the spike, which Johnny was tasked with holding.  Now is probably a good time to mention that Johnny never let a chance to run his mouth go by unseized.  Glenn, being cognizant of safety and all told Johnny that it would probably be a good idea to stop talking to the other guys on the crew for a bit and focus on holding the spike straight so he didn’t get hit with the sledge.  Johnny took great offense to this and told Glenn to “just hit the goddamn spike”, which Glenn did…barely.  As he lined up another hit, Johnny saw fit to jaw at the other crew and Glenn once again told Johnny that holding the spike straight would probably be a good idea and Johnny reiterated that it would best for Glenn to just shut the hell up and hit the spike.  Glenn swung the sledge and got a decent hit in.  As Glenn lined up the third swing he told Johnny that he better stop with the chit chat and hold the damn spike straight or it was going to end badly.  At that point Johnny had heard about enough of this nonsense and tore loose with a string of curses not heard before or since, again admonishing Glenn to just “hit the fucking spike”.  Glenn, fairly mad at this point, did as he as told, reared back and swung the hammer…hard.  The spike, which was not straight, caused the head of the hammer to bounce off and hit Johnny in the head.  Johnny, knocked unconscious fell the 10-15 feet to the ground.  Glenn yelled down to his unconscious father-in-law, “I told you to hold it straight, Johnny.”  Somehow, neither of them were fired for this and they continued to work on the bridge until its completion.

“Always Know Who’s Paying the Bill”

My Dad’s uncle, Jasper, is a fairly mild-mannered guy.  A dentist in Tallahassee, you’d really never guess that in his younger years he led quite the interesting life.  Jasper and his brother were all sheriff’s deputies at one point or another, often working together in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.  When the opportunity presented itself they would hire themselves out as private security to make a little bonus money.  One such offer came to Jasper back in the 60’s-70’s timeframe, (he wasn’t totally clear on the year itself).  He got wind of a job working security at a factory in New Orleans whose workers were on strike.  The union and the management were at an impasse and things were getting incredibly contentious.  There was fear among the management that the workers would burn the factory down so they wanted to hire someone to keep an eye on things.  When Jasper heard about the offer, (which was quite generous), he expressed interest.  He was told that he would be hired for a week and that they hoped to get something done with the union by then.  Jasper showed up the first night and started making his rounds.  The factory was dark and quiet and that lead Jasper to do some thinking about exactly what he’d gotten himself into.  He realized that he only had his revolver with him and if a mob came looking for trouble he would likely be highly out-gunned.  He told me that had come to the conclusion that if a group showed up looking for trouble he’d probably try to shoot 5 of them and save the last bullet for himself.  After what he called “the longest night of his life” he realized that he was probably spooking himself out and that if nothing had happened so far, it probably wasn’t going to happen.  He worked the factory the next two nights without incident and on that Thursday, a deal was reached between the union and the management.  Jasper expressed that this was good news and that he would miss making rounds around the dark, empty factory late at night.  He was told that they really appreciated him showing up and doing a good job and that they were going to pay him for the entire week.  He said, “Great, where can I pick up my money?”  His contact said, “Yeah, about that.  We need you to go to this bar in New Orleans.  Walk to the back, knock on the room, tell them who you are and that you’re there to collect your wages.”  Jasper wasn’t too happy about this turn of events but realizing that he’d never confirmed where the money was coming from and that this was probably the only way he was going to get paid, he set off for this bar.  He walked into the bar and described as “a scene straight out of a movie”.  The bartender was a thick, tall guy who shot Jasper a cross eye as he entered the bar.  Jasper just walked straight to the back of the bar and knocked on a door.  He said that he couldn’t believe it when a little slot in the door opened and a pair of eyes asked him what his business there was.  After a quick explanation, multiple locks clicked and the door opened to reveal an office.  In the middle of the room was a desk.  A man was leaning against the desk, staring at Jasper.  To Jasper’s surprise and mortification, the man was Carlos Marcello, mafia boss.  To Carlos’s right was a woman, who in Jasper’s words “was wearing nothing but a smile”.  To Carlos’s left was an envelope.  The genial Carlos launched into a speech about how thankful he was to Jasper for his assistance in protecting their business assets during such a critical time.  He looked Jasper in the eye and said, “Now, about your wages.  He gestured to his right and said, “You can have the woman”, gestured to his left and said, “or you can have the money.  It makes no difference to me.”  By the time Jasper was realizing that he, a sworn peace officer was about to receive a not unsubstantial amount of money from an organized crime boss.  He also knew that refusing the money was simply out of the question.  He looked at the woman, tipped his hat, and said, “If it’s all the same to you, Miss, I’ll be taking my money.”  And with that he took the envelope, shook hands, and took off.  He said that after that day, he always verified ahead of time who was paying the bill.

“I said ‘Go Home'”

About that same time, a large amount of civil unrest was happening in South Louisiana, often leading to large marches that ranged for civil affairs to bordering on riots.  One such demonstration broke out on a cold, rainy day and initially one deputy was sent to try to calm things down.  A man of diminutive stature and presence, he proved fairly ineffective in bringing peace to the situation as the crowd had reached a fever pitch and refused to disperse.  The deputy called my paternal grandfather, Oscar.  Known as “Big O” to his brothers and friends, Oscar wasn’t a particularly violent person but he also wasn’t keen on putting up with anyone’s bullshit, either.  He recounted arriving on the scene to find this poor deputy soaked to the skin and in pretty bad shape morale-wise.  Oscar told him, “There’s a change of clothes in my truck.  They’ll be too big but at least you’ll be dry.  There’s a thermos with some coffee and a sandwich.  Help yourself.”  The deputy said, “What are you going to do?”  Oscar replied, “I’m going to call the boys.”  “The boys?” replied the deputy.  Oscar got on the radio and got word out to his brothers to meet up so they could take care of things.  When the last of the other four arrived, they looked at each other and said, “Ok then, let’s go.”  The crowd had moved on a bit but they were still in a bit of a frenzy, smashing car windows, and causing some other minor property damage.  When the group of brothers rounded a corner and saw the crowd, Oscar got on his bullhorn and said simply but sternly, “Go Home.”  A man at the front of the crowd stepped forward to hurl a seething ball of invective at the deputies and threatened them with bodily harm if they weren’t left alone.  Oscar calmly raised the bullhorn and said, “I said, go home.”  The man was incensed and once again launched into a tirade.  By now others in the group were starting to gather in support and it looked as if things were going to turn ugly.  As the man and his associates started to advance toward the deputies, Oscar calmly pulled out his pistol and shot a car right next to the man.  He once again raised his bullhorn and said, “For the last time, go home.”  The crowd, sensing judgment to be the better part of valor, dispersed.

“Don’t Make Me Call ‘Big O'”

One night, Oscar’s brother Frank got called to a convenience store to respond to an unruly customer.  Frank was a sweet guy who preferred to use his words to defuse a situation.  When Frank arrived he quickly found the unruly customer who was unsurprisingly quite drunk and making one hell of a mess of the place, pulling products off the shelves, etc.  Frank tried to reason with the customer but the customer was steadfast that he was not leaving and that Frank could “go to hell”.  Finally, Frank told the customer, “Don’t make me call ‘Big O’.  You won’t like it.  You should really consider coming with me instead.”  The customer said, “Fuck you and fuck ‘Big O’ too.  I ain’t going nowhere!”  So Frank guarded that door and called for Oscar to come down to assist.  When Oscar got there, Frank simply said, “Welp, there he is.”  The customer said, “Who the fuck are you?”  Oscar said, “I’m Big O.”  Oscar then bullrushed the customer, picked him up by his collar and waistband and carried him out of the store.  As they reached the parking lot, the customer’s head “accidentally” hit the police cruiser.  Frank has the rear door of the car open and Oscar, trying to insert the customer into the car, missed and hit the customer’s shoulder on the frame of the car, (again, accidental, I’m sure).  Oscar yelled at the customer for being so reticent to get into the car and he threw him once again, this time finding his target of the cruiser’s rear seat.  The customer didn’t yet have time to pull his legs into the cruiser but Oscar felt that he’d given plenty of fair warning a slammed the door shut…on the customer’s legs.  The customer let out a yell that would curl your hair and pulled his feet into the back seat.  Frank thanked Oscar and prepared to leave.  As he got into his cruiser’s driver’s seat, the customer whimpered from the back, “I should’ve listened to you.  I shouldn’t have made you call Big O.”

“I was Blind for 15 Minutes”

My hometown of Bayou Vista has a bit of a rough past.  When you combine Cajuns (a hotheaded lot to begin with), shrimpers coming off boats with wads of cash, and roughnecks coming off of rigs with similar stacks of money with copious amounts of alcohol, things can get testy.  One such haunt where things were known to go south on occasion was the Vista Lounge on Highway 182.  One night, Oscar, working as a St. Mary Parish deputy, got called to the bar on account of a brawl.  He said that when he pulled into the parking lot he could feel that it was a bad one.  As he entered the door, he was hit in the temple with a chain and he immediately lost sight.  He said that he was frightened to death and felt like he was about to be killed.  He drew his knife and started slashing at anyone within reach until he backed himself into a corner and could listen for anyone approaching.  His backup arrived minutes later and he eventually regained sight.

“Every One But You, Huh?”

Despite the brothers’ dalliances in the field of peace officing, they weren’t always on the right side of the law, so to speak.  They also, like many men in South Louisiana spent some time working in the old fields.  Alcohol was (and still is) strictly verboten on the oil rigs so the guys would usually stop in for one last cold one before boarding the helicopter out of Intracoastal City.  Oscar and Jasper were headed to The Rainbow Inn to get their last fix before heading out to the rigs.  As they approached the front door of the bar, they saw a bartender standing in the doorway.  He said, “You can’t go in.”  Oscar and Jasper let out an exasperated, “And why not?”  The bartender said, “Everyone is in there fighting!”  Oscar looked at the bartender and said, “Everyone but you, huh?” and with that he punched the bartender square in the nose, stepped over him, walked behind the bar, and opened a couple of beers for him and Jasper.

There are plenty of other stories but I think that’s probably enough for now.  I hope you enjoyed reading them.  I enjoyed telling them.