Long Trek from JC to Whitehorse
February 15, 1998
Howdy, friends.... I just wanted you all to know that the Eagle Has Landed!
OK, so it's just the Old Bat and She's Set Down. Oh, not on any lunar surface, of course, but in a trailer on a 60 x l00 lot in Crestview - sort of a halfway house where she and Mr. Old Bat can recharge the batteries and make some informed decisions about the rest of their lives. Breathes there a single man (or woman) with soul so dead, eyes so blind or ears so deaf that he has not heard/seen/deduced that we sold the Old Barn this spring, after several lifetimes of service to the travelling public on the Alaska Highway? After a summer of news- paper and magazine interviews, TV appearances and radio chats ad nauseum, there were no secrets left and I thought you'd like to know how it all turned out.
Actually, about all I can tell you is that it's a good thing we chose to do it this year. With the election coming on and the referendum and all, I mean.
You see, it's not so bad for me: I always seem to have lots to do, what with trying to turn a three-bedroom trailer into Johnson's Crossing Lodge and visiting the grandbabies and checking out the new library facilities and so on. But poor old Phil is making heavy weather. Back home (old habits die hard, don't you know?) he puttered and tinkered and fixed things and when he tired of that, there was always someone around with whom to shoot a little bull. Here, there's not much to putt or tink at and when he tires the pretence, there's only me and I'm a lousy bull shooter, preferring babies to baseball and having only a passing interest in internal combustion.
So he stands in the yard, waving at the people who live in neighbourhood as they leave for work. Sometimes, they respond and he comes running in to report. "Mum!" (He calls me Mum when he's really excited.) "Mum!" he says, with a big smile. "I waved at that guy across the way and he smiled! And waved back!"
And he hangs on the fence, awaiting the arrival of the postie, who converses on the run. Or, if it's Wednesday, he takes the garbage out at 9 AM and sits on it until Cec Jobson comes and scoops it into the maw of his garbage wedger, chatting as he works. Breaks my heart, it does, to see him so lonely.
But all that has changed now, what with Chris and Sandra and Bonnie and Mickey and all their helpers dropping by daily to chat him up and the enumerators bringing cheer and glad tidings. Even a couple of nicely-coifed ladies stopped by to read to us from the Bible and several pamphlets that they carry in their good-looking briefcase. "Thanks for dropping by," Phil told the last two. I slammed the door before he could add his usual exhortation to "Come back again, now, y'hear?"
"That was rude, Ellen," he chided, gently. "How are we going to get to know people if you don't want to make the effort?"
Poor guy. When we were going through the mechanics of the sale, this spring, I don't believe that he was giving a whole lot of thought to the Lodge-less future. But someone was.
Not long after we'd moved into town, we were over at our daughter's home. As we sat on the couch drinking coffee, three of our grand-daughters lined up in front of their Poppa. Three pairs of big blue eyes gazed expectantly at his shirt pocket. Automatically, Phil's hand reached in to extract his familiar package of Wriggley's spearmint, searching through the credit card slips and toothpicks. After a moment he stopped and, stricken, looked down into the little faces. "I'm sorry girls, I don't have any gum left."
The girls stood still, smiles fading. Then, Deanna, the oldest, broke the silence. "That's OK, Poppa," she said gently and turning, led her sister and her cousin out of the room. At the door, she turned and looked back at him. "I told them that you wouldn't have gum any more after you sold the Lodge."
I don't suppose you have anything needing to be putted or tinked? We're easy to find - just take Azure to the top of the hill, turn left on Rainbow and again at Cache - and cheap, too, all it takes is a package or two of Wrigley's and fifteen minutes of chit-chat. But please hurry. The ladies with the briefcase are back in the neighbourhood again and he's out on the back stoop, waving...