Sunday, June 12, 2011

The land of the blind

"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." A dude named Erasmus is reported to have said that about 500 years ago, but the quote is still oddly true enough to appeal to my quirky personality. It may not have much to do with firefighting, but indulge me while I attempt to conjure up a connection. 

On the way to Fort Frances yesterday, we stopped by several microscopic fire departments that were even tinier than Upsala (I didn't realize that was possible). I've driven countless times by these halls that are tucked into the Canadian wilderness like wild strawberries in a spruce thicket . . . and never noticed that they were there. Only a tiny fraction of the travelling population has any clue that they exist. Their equipment is a hodgepodge assortment of pumps and trucks and tools, acquired by a skillful blend of pierogi sales, flea markets, and sweet talk to the provincial government. Their volunteers are hard-working folks that steal family time to train, and drop their lives when the pager goes off.

Here's the connection to the one-eyed king. At first glance these departments don't look like much, but if you get into trouble in their domain, they are undoubtedly the only help you will get . . . which makes them lords of their wilderness response areas. Sure, a half a million dollar pumper full of state-of-the-art equipment and a paid crew on-the-ready would be nice, but if your car is burning, or your cottage is threatened by a wild land fire, you will be happy to see that pick up truck roll up with a portable pump and a couple of trained volunteers. You might even feel the urge to bow in grateful homage to these wilderness monarchs.

Here's another connection. The Harper government kept its promise to include a $3000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters in the newly tabled budget. I've made no secret of my opinion that this is a nice gesture, but not nearly enough to fix small departments that are strained to the breaking point. However . . . it is a nice gesture from a federal government that has historically ignored the volunteer service. Stephen Harper may be a one-eyed king, but he rules in a land of the politically blind.

This is a weird post. I just finished comparing a group of dedicated volunteer firefighters to a one-eyed king. Then I turned around and elevated Stephen Harper to the same level as these dedicated volunteers. It's obviously approaching midnight, and I'm blogging when I should be sleeping.

I'd better shift gears and talk about something less mind scrambling. I had a lot of fun when we did the ice rescue course in Fort Frances last April, and I was looking forward to helping with the water rescue piece here this weekend. I even went out and bought a wetsuit for the occasion. My enthusiasm quickly waned when I got out in the river and realized the suit was too big, and that I couldn't stop my teeth from chattering. Wetsuits are only warm if they are tight, apparently. I ended up having to bail out early, and then spent the rest of the afternoon watching from shore while everyone else paddled the Fortuna and did various rescue maneuvers in the river. It was like being in the penalty box during the Stanley Cup finals, except that hockey penalties are only two minutes. The moral of the story is that a one-eyed wetsuit is useless.

Wow. This is getting weirder by the minute.

I tried to console myself by taking photos with my new phone. The crews were too far out for a decent shot though, and I still can't figure out how to get the photos out of my camera and into my computer. Add a one-eyed camera phone to the list.

My mother has been teaching piano over the winter, and her students (including Vanessa) performed a recital last week. After they were done, my parents played a few duets for the group. They were pieces that my dad either wrote or arranged in his own unique style. Here's a clip of them playing a duet he wrote many years ago, and which brought back pleasant childhood memories. It's a little glitchy because I'm still trying to figure out my one-eyed camera, but most of the oddness was written into the piece with the careful deliberateness of an eccentric composer.

After they were done, I went up and told my mom how much I enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Then I said something like, "Growing up on music like that explains the way I turned out," to which she replied, "What's that supposed to mean?" I think she knew what I meant though, because it was her birthday, and her card from my dad contained this Ogden Nash poem:

More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That’s how much I love you.

I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.

As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
Or a juggler hates a shove,
As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
That’s how much you I love.

I love you more than a wasp can sting,
And more than the subway jerks,
I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
And more than a hangnail irks.

I swear to you by the stars above,
And below, if such there be,
As the High Court loathes perjurious oathes,
That’s how you’re loved by me.

If you still don't understand why I turned out the way I did, at least believe that I had a lot of fun growing up.

I have more thoughts about the training we did in Red Lake, the budget cuts that Toronto faces, and the world in general, but they will have to wait, seeing that it is now after midnight, and tomorrow I hope to try the river again if I can get a different suit. Even a one-eyed blogger (who, by the way, is king of his own domain) needs his sleep.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to send a link to this blog post to a number of my friends!


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