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In 1947 I began school in New Westminster and for the longest time never uttered a word of my earlier life on the Skeena River. Looking back it seems to me that it is about Grade 4 when you begin to sort out your place amongst your classmates. So it may have been because of this that I began to share my early childhood stories with my classmates. They were immediately taken with my retelling of my Inverness days and I basked in the warmth of my new-found glory. The day came however when I finally out ran out of stories. Unfortunately I guess I wasn’t yet ready to yield the spotlight and decided to try my hand at embellishing a story.

Here’s the background. One summer day Nico Hedstrom, my dad’s aunt, took the train from Prince Rupert, got off at Phelan and walked down the railroad tracks to visit us. Coming into our home she remarked to my mother about what a strikingly handsome dog we had outside. My mother replied that we did not have a large dog. Going to the window she discovered that once again there was a large wolf in our front yard. Here’s the way I translated that experience to one of my classmates, a wide-eyed Marilyn Z.

My mother has just finished washing the kitchen floor. She opens the front door so that the floor will dry faster. Soon afterwards a huge wolf with large muddy feet wanders into our kitchen. My mother, looking at her still wet floor covered in the wolf’s muddy footprints is outraged. Without thinking she takes the broom and begins beating the wolf about the head. The wolf, in fear of his life, howls and charges out through the empty door and disappears into the forest.”

Not bad, eh? I was very pleased with Marilyn’s reaction to my tale of horror and derring-do. An hour or so later however, disaster struck! At recess Marilyn ran up our teacher Miss Smith and breathlessly retold my story. Miss Smith called me up and said that that was such a good story that on Monday morning she wanted me to share it with the entire class. Oh, oh, what was I to do now? I couldn’t bring myself to admit to Miss Smith that it was all one big lie. After all, I was hopelessly in love with her. That is, until Grade Five when Miss Grant entered my life but that’s another story. Ah, the fickleness of youth!

This having happened on a Friday I had the whole weekend to dwell on the mess I had gotten myself into. Truthfully, I didn’t get a lot of sleep that weekend. Come ‘Show and Tell’ on Monday morning I would be standing in front of my classmates and Miss Smith telling them all a great big bald-faced lie. The thought of doing that kept running through my mind day and night over that tortured weekend.

Monday’s morning’s Show and Tell finally arrived and I was called upon for my story. With leaden feet I slowly approached the front of the class. It was even worse than I had imagined. My mouth went dry and the back of my shirt was soaked in sweat. Slowly, painfully, awkward sentence after awkward sentence, punctuated by my deafening silences, Miss Smith drew the whole sorry tale from out of my dry lips...”and then what happened, David.?.. Uh...the wolf turned around...uh...Then what happened? ...Uh ... uh...” Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you learn more than just ‘the three R’s’ from your teacher.

Post Script: At my 35th Grad Reunion, I had the opportunity to speak with Marilyn once again. I asked her if she remembered that life-altering story of mine. Not a word of it. Like Comment Share


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