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Various Veins

Last Friday I went with the Reverend Cordell Parsons to visit long time friend Frank Volkaert in Stratford. Frank's brother Isidore grew tobacco for my dad, Bowes. That brought Frank into the picture. We both primed tobacco for Isidore from time to time.

I had travelled to Stratford many times, taking university courses there for a number of years, and going to the theatres. Cordell designated me as guide. We travelled the Culloden Road to Ingersoll, jogged north and east to the Embro Road. The landscape in north Oxford and Perth is what I picture as Scotland with rolling hills and rushing streams.

Cordell is familiar with the route to the hospital where Frank is living until a bed in a nursing home is found for him. My route ended at the Central Collegiate behind the courthouse.

On Saturday I had another adventure that brought dozens of memories out of the mists. Long time friend Norman Bates was told he was going to a musical event at the Legion in Port Burwell. If he suspected this was a ruse, he soon knew he was right. The hall was filled with friends and family to celebrate his 85th birthday. I'll leave you to imagine the feast provided by the Sunshine Restaurant and the flaring of 85 candles set in a slab of wood. The blowing out of those flames gave me a bit of concern. Would Norm hyperventilate and fall into the fire? His beard would make a spectacular scene if he did.

No, he paced himself well, and we devoured the cake with gusto.

You may know Norm was, like his father Charlie, a fisherman. I've enjoyed many a dayfishing with him, not in the Janie B, in a small craft powered by an outboard motor. When the waves threatened to poop us and fill our little craft to the gunnels, Norm would say, "Cut her back." He learned that from his dad. You adjust the speed to ride on the waves instead of driving the prow into them. That's called broaching. Without that teaching likely I wouldn't be here at the laptop riding waves of memory. I'd feeding perch in Long Point Bay.

A couple in the crowd introduced themselves to me while we waited for Norm and Liz to arrive. The husband said his father was first cousin to Norm's Dad. As I wound my head around that, I heard him mention his grandmother was a school teacher.

"Did she have red hair?" I asked.

"She may have, she had two red headed sons."

When I was a new teacher in Straffordville, once a month on a Friday afternoon we'd meet in one or another of the Bayham schools to swap ideas for teaching. We had a little grey book with all the topics we were to "inculcate by instruction and example" in our pupils. The trick was to dress the precepts in new terms, sort of like a woman choosing a new hat to hold attention.

I believe on this particular Friday we visited S.S. No. 1 on the Lake road west of Port Burwell. The teacher who welcomed us was a spirited lady with flaming curls. Her name was Mrs. Bates.

From this distance I have no idea what tips we gathered. I do remember the enthusiasm as we made notes to take back to our classrooms.

How the educational scene has changed since that day. The little grey book is replaced by libraries of precepts that leave students to scan computers for the facts while their heads are left spinning over prevention of bullying, acceptance of values currently competing for first place, sadly often with bombs and knives.

Attitudes are important, but it's nice if people know how to sign their names in long hand.


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